If you chose a career in public service, or if you just really like volunteering for random events, you get to see a lot of public figures speak. It can be a message of unity, bring up good feelings, or fire us up about an issue we’re upset about. Speech in it’s purest form is about trying to share your perspective and your worldview – to leverage your knowledge and your passions to create changes you want to see in the world.
When you see a truly special speaker, I want you to know what you’ve seen, and really engage in that experience. An excellent speaker doesn’t just persuade – they embody their ideals and bring them, fully formed, to the people around them. It then isn’t about talking to people, it’s about including them in your vision and showing them how it can be their own.
I had the opportunity recently to see one such a speaker when Justice of the Supreme Court Sonya Sotomayor came to the Enoch Pratt Free Library to talk about her recently published book. Excitement around this event had been running high for months. And truly she did not disappoint.
When she spoke, Justice Sotomayor didn’t address the crowd from a podium. She walked up and down the aisle way (much to the consternation, no doubt, of her bodyguards), making frequent stops to turn and speak toward each person in the audience of hundreds. She gave hugs afterwards. She genuinely wanted to get out, meet these people, and share her message. She wanted to us to know how much she cared, and wanted to see us caring too. This wasn’t a speaking obligation – it was an obligation to grow her worldview with us and show us that there is more out there for us. She spoke about wanting people to know her story so that even children from a rough start can believe in their dreams and ambitions, and I for one came away inspired and energized.
While excellent speakers appear to be presenting with natural talent, great public speaking skills can be developed like any other skill. One of my goals this year is to become a better speaker; I may never even come near the Honorable Justice Sotomayor, but I can confidently say that I couldn’t set a better goal. I know I got warmed on a cold Thursday by an amazing woman who took her time to tell us about the world she envisioned. Who are you going to share your world with?