If you want to learn from the best professors at the best universities, try The Great Courses.
The Great Courses produces college-level courses taught by the most engaging professors from universities like Oxford, Stanford, Princeton, and Georgetown. I don’t know how I got on their mailing list, but I regularly receive the catalog from The Great Courses. They offer more than 390 courses in science, literature, history, philosophy, business, religion, mathematics, fine arts, music, and better living. It’s interesting to look through the catalog and read about the courses offered.
However, I haven’t tried anything until recently.
I was in the local public library and happened to notice a title from The Great Courses that interested me: The Art of Public Speaking, with two DVDs and a course guidebook.
The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History, by Prof. John R. Hale from the University of Louisville, is a 12-lecture course. Each 30 minute lecture shares a technique and strategy used by history’s greatest public speakers. You will learn the essential skill of what makes history’s enduring speeches so unforgettable.
Prof. Hale touches the three key components of successful public speaking:
- How to prepare for public speaking: overcome stage fright, control your voice and body, use humor, and personalize your delivery.
- How to craft a great speech: use stories, examples, logic, and impressive visual images.
- How to handle your audience: focus on your audience, persuade them to agree with you, invite them to share your vision, and inspire them to change.
In essence, to be a great public speaker, you should
- Speak from personal knowledge: Use personal experiences to allow your audience to better connect with you. In polite conversation, talking about yourself is frowned upon; in public speaking, it’s essential.
- Organize your facts into a story: When drafting a speech, find the underlying stories in your topic and organize your information around these stories. You’ll find it easier to remember your speech, and your audience will engage more with your message.
- Weave familiar references into your speech: Using familiar quotations when addressing your audience can establish a common ground. They may not be your words but, when used sparingly, they can infuse your speech with added power.
The 12 lectures are:
1. Overcome Obstacles—Demosthenes of Athens
Practice, hard work, memorization, the acceptance of failures, and other skills are essential to overcoming obstacles from stage fright to speech impediments.
2. Practice Your Delivery—Patrick Henry
Key to effective speaking is using your voice and body to reinforce your meaning. The power of a speech lies not so much in words as in vocal and physical elements like tone, pitch, facial expression, and posture.
3. Be Yourself—Elizabeth I to Her Army
In order to make the deepest possible connection with your audience, it’s essential to talk about yourself—your experiences, your emotions, even your weaknesses.
4. Find Your Humorous Voice—Will Rogers
Use humor and jokes. The secret of effective humor is to ensure that each laugh makes a point and focuses your audience’s attention on the topic.
5. Make It a Story—Marie Curie on Discovery
Make your speech, whenever possible, a story. Organizing information into a story to give your details weight and vividness. Using storytelling to make your points memorable.
6. Use the Power of Three—Paul to His People
A speech—and the examples and anecdotes it uses—should be planned in threes. Every speech, every story has three parts – a beginning, a middle, and an end, or introduction, body and conclusion of the speech. Also present things in threes. Two of something seems in opposition; three of something seems a completion.
7. Build a Logical Case—Susan B. Anthony
Logic should always guide the sequence of your thoughts.
8. Paint Pictures in Words—Tecumseh on Unity
Narrow your focus to the individual words and phrases you use in your speech—each of which can make your topic unforgettable.
9. Focus on Your Audience—Gandhi on Trial
Focus on your audience is one of the essential elements of actually giving a speech. This is how to deliver your speech to—and connect with—specific audiences.
10. Share a Vision—Martin Luther King’s Dream
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most iconic speeches in modern history. More important: It’s the perfect example of a speech with the power to inspire.
11. Change Minds and Hearts—Mark Antony
Sway emotions and opinions by appealing to sentiments, repeating facts, and using props.
12. Call for Positive Action—Lincoln at Gettysburg
Include a clear call to action near the conclusion of your speech, and always craft a strong ending.
I really liked the first great course I checked out.