Public Speaking: Tips and tricks, or spelunking?

Is developing yourself as a highly effective public speaker a journey into your inner recesses and resources, (what I call spelunking, which is technically the exploration of caves), or are presentation skills basically a set of techniques, tips, and tricks that anyone can master, bolt on to their exterior, and remain unchanged?

Let me think aloud.  If you bolt the public speaking techniques onto your exterior, aren’t you automatically deepened by the process of using them, or at least changed in some way by the effort?

Or, if you approach presenting as a spelunker, someone who sees the task as a process of personal growth and development, do you eventually arrive at the tips and tricks, buried like treasures in the center of your being, only this time they’re growing from the inside, out?

This idea presupposes that the public speaking tips and tricks are somehow fundamental universal principles that are present in all of us, lying dormant deep inside us.

Maybe if you approach the discipline of public speaking as a set of mechanical techniques they remain just that – tools you use – due, perhaps, to your willingness and ability to see them as tools that you put down once the job is done.

But then you are changed by the knowledge that you have a new ability, a greater power to influence others through your persuasive speaking, which could very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy, since your increased sense of power will give you greater confidence, which could speed you up the steep and thorny path to career success.

However, you may use your new-found confidence to speak lies, half-truths, and ideological blather to your audiences, in which case you have improved yourself as a speaker, but not as a person.

So it all comes down to intention.  You can become a better public speaker or presenter through acquiring tips and tricks, or by approaching it with the intention of using your skills for the greater good, but what will determine your personal growth is not your technique, but your purpose.

Which reminds me of this line from T.S. Eliot:

The last temptation is the greatest treason:

To do the right deed for the wrong reason.


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