Becoming a Billionaire Public Speaker

By on July 18, 2017

Have you seen the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett? It was especially interesting to me when he talked about his fear as a public speaker.

“You can’t believe what I was like if I had to give a talk,” he says in The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. “I would throw up.”

He enrolled in a Dale Carnegie public-speaking course. After taking the course, Buffett was confident enough to speak in public.

Warren Buffett often talks about how valuable a skill he believes public speaking to be. According to Carmine Gallo in his article Billionaire Warren Buffett Says This 1 Skill Will Boost Your Career Value by 50 Percent on Inc.com, Buffett referenced it during a talk to Columbia University business students in 2009.

“Right now, I would pay $100,000 for 10 percent of the future earnings of any of you, so if you’re interested, see me after class.”

After the laughter subsided, he turned serious.

“Now, you can improve your value by 50 percent just by learning communication skills–public speaking. If that’s the case, see me after class and I’ll pay you $150,000.”

Today, would-be orators can hone their skills in the same class where Buffett developed his.

CNBC sat down with Joe Hart, president and CEO of Dale Carnegie, to discuss some of the most important lessons professionals can use to become better communicators—the same ones that that changed Buffett’s life. Here’s what they say:

Learn as much as you can

Because Buffett is always learning, he’s continuously building up the cache of topics on which he can speak authoritatively. And according to Carnegie, the best speeches are given by people who know a topic very well.

Talk about your own experiences

Making a speech personal is the shortest route to winning people over, according to Carnegie.

Buffett often does this in his talks, adding anecdotes from his life and career to make a point.

Jot down notes, not a draft

If you watch Buffett speak, you’ll see that he rarely looks at a piece of paper, if ever. That’s because one of Carnegie’s core principles is that a good speech is never typed up beforehand.

Instead, Carnegie recommended referring to brief notes, rather than reading from a transcript that can keep you from being present.

Get excited about the topic

Smiling, having “positive energy” and exuding confidence make a huge difference, Hart says.

Buffett became passionate about investing, money and achieving success at a young age. That enduring enthusiasm comes through in his speeches and interviews.

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