In this post, I pose five questions to Aaron Beverly, the 2019 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking. I have taken these five questions from the video interview I did with Aaron and edited them for clarity.
How do you prepare when you have to give a high-stakes speech?
The way I create and edit my speeches is that I am constantly thinking of ways to improve them. So once I create the draft, I am always thinking of how I can make it better. For example, here is how I created the speech that won me the 2019 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking.
I wrote the first draft in July of 2019. But before writing the draft, I had been testing the material in other speeches and keynote speeches to see what worked with the audience. Once I found out what was resonating with the audience, I condensed the material in the five to seven-minute time frame for the Toastmasters contest. So it is an iterative process from start to finish, and along the way, I keep making the speech better.
How is a Toastmasters contest speech different from a typical corporate speech?
You change the order of how you present your stories.
The main thing you have to keep in mind is that corporate speeches are not entertainment speeches in that you have to get to your point quickly.
A typical entertainment speech follows this order:
In a corporate environment, you have to start with the problem and answer these key questions:
How do you tell a story in a corporate environment?
A corporate story is a little different from a typical story. You have to focus on what went wrong. The story could be about a problem and how you're going to fix it.
In a typical story, you introduce the protagonist and then the antagonist. Meanwhile, in a corporate setting, you first introduce the antagonist and explain the backstory about that antagonist. Then you bring in the protagonist to be the hero of the situation and rectify the situation.
In short, it's a different order of storytelling in how we normally tell stories in that you first introduce a character in the setting and then introduce the conflict or the bad guy and then have the escalation. It doesn't work like that in a corporate environment. It has to be a lot tighter, and you have to start with the problem first and why it exists and then how you're going to solve it.
Who has most influenced your speaking style?
I take a lot of inspiration from comedians, and you may even see it in the style that I have on stage where I have very quick and punchy delivery, and that comes from my studying of comedians. I really like comedians like Hasan Minhaj and old-school comedians like Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams.
I really look at their content, their presentations, and I see what I can use in my public speaking presentations from watching them. I believe that comedians are the best example of public speaking in the modern-day, even more so than the professional speakers. Comedians have an excellent command of the stage, and they are very entertaining.
What is the one tip that can improve one's speaking skills?
One tip that I have is to record yourself, whether it's audio recording or video recording. Unfortunately, what I have found is that a lot of people don't do this. So if you want to improve your public speaking skills, I recommend people they record themselves and then listen to the recording or watch the recording to see how it looks and sounds and pay attention to distractions like filler words and any grammatical errors that you tend to make. This is hard for many, but you just have to get into the habit of recording yourself, and you will start seeing an improvement in the way you speak.
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Jay Oza is a writer, speaker, executive coach. He makes people thrive on high stakes stage whether it's for a job interview, a sales presentation or an important speech. He is the author of the book Winning Speech Moments: How to Achieve Your Objective with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. Please download the speech checklist to help you with your next high stakes speech.
Please contact him if you would like to have an two 75 minute coaching session or interested in inviting him to your facility to give a talk on job Interviewing or High-Stakes Speaking. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 732-847-9877.