“If you had to pick someone as a public speaking role model, who would it be?” my instructor asked.

“Public speaking role model?” I said.”Ummm…”

“You say umm too much”, she said.

“Gee, you sound like my wife.”

I’ve gone back to school – to become a great public speaker.
Step back a bunch of years. First I was a consultant for a traditional, study-report-and-present consulting company. Then, I became a public company CEO. Doing those jobs well was a non-stop diet of public speaking – to clients, Boards, at annual meetings and trade shows, speaking to analysts, fund managers and others. I loved public speaking. A great day was a day I had to give a speech.

Fast forward a few years. Ummm…not so much.

First, I don’t get the opportunities like I used to. I stopped doing client reports after I left my first consulting job. And my current key shareholder says she hears enough from me already. There’s no need for an annual meeting.

But that’s about to change (role, not shareholder). So it’s time for an upgrade.

What did I learn today?

Well, get this. My instructor rated me a -1(that’s minus 1) out of 5 for my ‘gestures’. Eye contact, posture, confidence and sense of humor (sense of humor?) did a whole bunch better – she gave me a one. ONE!! Geez, I guess I’m gonna get a lot for my money!

But….and this shows I really am in the wrong career – she gave me a 4 out of 5 (four!) for vocal technique. Out of five!

According to my amazing instructor, who’s worked with lots of amazing people….like Al Gore….four out of five is unheard of for some schmo walking in off the street (actually I called first). She told me I have a “broadcaster quality” voice.

Too bad I didn’t know that before the Olympics.

From there we moved on to fixing some of the basics. Stooping and slouching is bad. It makes your audience want to kick your ass. I need to get my shoulders back. Plant myself squarely on center stage. “Be in charge of my space. Like Mick Jagger”. Oh. Right! Have you seen me on Guitar Hero?

Then I learned how to move. From center stage, left to my ‘humour box’ and right to my ’empathy box’. I found moving from box to box easy – the real challenge is actually being empathetic or funny. Learning that comes in week 14.

Then we beat the ‘umm’ out of me. It went like this.

“Jim, start speaking”.

“Blah, blah, ummmm, blah.”


“Blah. Ummm.” STOP.

“Ummm.” STOP.

Ok. I get it!

But you know, something interesting happened along the way. My public speaking came back. Oh, I’m not perfect…there’s at least $10,000 between me and a public appearance…but the comfort and feel of a few years ago started to creep back.

It turns out I’m not a podium person. Get me moving and I start making eye contact and being passionate. And change those other scores too. I gesture and laugh.Who knew??!

It was a terrific first session. Definitely worthwhile.

And, as I was leaving all she kept talking about was how I could become a broadcaster.

Have they filled Lou Dobbs’ job yet?