I recently conducted a workshop for young persons on public speaking. It was a pleasure to interact with some intelligent youngsters and share some tips. We discussed qualities of a good public speaker, elements of a good speech, the need for speaking with ‘passion,’ and the importance of body language, particularly of making the eye contact. I told the group:
Your speech is like a caterpillar. It has a beginning; a middle that moves it forward; and an end. Like the caterpillar, your speech, too, must bring about change.
In my search to show the group an example of a good public speech, I had picked up the Commencement Address delivered by J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series at the Harvard Alumni Association. Rowling made an excellent speech with all essential elements — a good beginning; a middle portion containing her central message; and a great ending— delivered with personal anecdotes, a sense of purpose and passion.
I would invite all to take a look at Rowling’s outstanding speech. Great writers can be great speakers too!
She spoke eloquently about benefits of failures, “…Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.” She encouraged the young graduates to look for opportunities in failures and setbacks of life and do things that you have the talent for. She also challenged their imagination to empathize with the powerless, “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
A good public speaker speaks from the heart, offers insights, not just information, shares lessons and inspires. That is precisely what Rowling did. I hope my group will remember her words—will learn from failures—will use their power of imagination — and will bring about change.