Great Com­mu­ni­ca­tors From Steve Jobs To TED Speak­ers Are Made, Not Born


First, the bad news. There are no short­cuts on the path to be­com­ing an ex­cep­tional pub­lic-speaker.

Now, the good news. Any­one who puts in the work can rad­i­cally im­prove their com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.

In the now fa­mous TED Talk “My Stroke of In­sight,” Har­vard re­searcher Dr. Jill Bolte-Tay­lor takes her au­di­ence on an 18-minute jour­ney of her life be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter a stroke. It’s a mes­mer­iz­ing per­for­mance and, like any good per­former, BolteTay­lor prac­ticed end­lessly for the talk of her life. When I asked Bolte-Tay­lor how much time she had prac­ticed, her an­swer sur­prised me. She re­hearsed her pre­sen­ta­tion not once, twice or even 20 times. She re­hearsed it 200 times! In­spir­ing pre­sen­ta­tions take prac­tice—hours and hours of it.

Re­cently I wrote an ar­ti­cle based on an in­ter­view with the world-fa­mous pas­tor Joel Os­teen. Os­teen told me that he re­hearses each ser­mon for 6 hours be­fore de­liv­er­ing it for the first time on Satur­day nights. He then de­liv­ers it twice on Sun­day. It’s the third ser­mon that’s recorded for the tele­vi­sion au­di­ence, but Os­teen has al­ready re­hearsed the ser­mon at least 12 times. View­ers see a pol­ished per­for­mance; they don’t see the hours of prac­tice that made it so. From CEOs to pas­tors, and from TED speak­ers to fa­mous lead­ers, great com­mu­ni­ca­tors are made, not born. We see this trend in Amer­ica’s most fa­mous speeches. For ex­am­ple, in 1964 Ron­ald Rea­gan gave a rous­ing speech to sup­port then Repub­li­can can­di­date Barry Gold­wa­ter. Gold­wa­ter lost the elec­tion, but vot­ers were in­spired by Rea­gan, who went on to be­come Cal­i­for­nia’s gover­nor and the 40th pres­i­dent


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