Powerful Public Speaking: An Inspiring Lesson from Ryan Avery

The beach is a very powerful place for me.
The beach is a very powerful place for me.

Powerful Public Speaking with Ryan Avery

Recently I had the privilege to hear the 2012 World Champion of Public speaking; energetic and very likeable Ryan Avery at his event “The Power of Story Telling”. On first impressions, he was well dressed in a smart, crisp blue shirt, tan leather shoes; you can always tell the quality of a man by their shoes, and trust me they were good. From the minute Avery leaped onto the stage I was mesmerised, enthralled and captivated by his style, elegance, humour and engaging speaking style, no wonder he was the World Champion!

I find it hard to focus on anything for longer than a few minutes, Avery held me captivated for well over an hour, and I really learned a lot of cool things about public speaking. Who knew there was a world championship in public speaking right? Now I don’t want to compete to be the best in the world, but I do aspire to talking to a wider audience about my empowering message to “Live Your Truth”; one day on stage to engage an audience to the best of my ability.

Avery really had presence, you wanted to hear what he had to say. He engaged his audience with the power of his stories, which were funny, interesting, personal and relevant to his message. Story telling is a powerful and motivating way to engage with your audience. With improved public speaking skills, you can become THE leader and not just A leader.  Oh yeah, he said some good stuff! I am here to tell you his juicy bits in a nutshell.

He began his speech by introducing one of his favourite leaders in communication; James C. Humes. He wrote a book called “Speak like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln”, that sounds pretty cool, although very American, I am sure leadership theory is an international thing! I plan to get that one from the library, immediately!

Avery used visual prompts throughout his speech. Video clips and images with inspiring phrases, as well as two whiteboards, where he would scribe more visual prompts to further emphasise his message. Simple but so effective.

He talked about body language and how so much is communicated by what you don’t say. Even something as simple as stepping backwards on stage will give your audience the impression you are under confident, or not sure about your ability on stage. Very powerful. Confidence in your stance is a learned technique, one I think you either have or you don’t; you can always practise to improve effectively.

I went to another talk recently which was interesting, mainly because it was a great demonstration on how not to speak publicly! He didn’t get it all wrong, but definitely lost me by the end. He continually asked his audience to raise hands to agree, which is annoying, and after the 28th time I flat out refused to raise my hand in a nazi style salute. He repeated the phrase

“Are we cool?”

Constantly repeating this annoying phase during his talk, by the end, and after I had heard it well over 46 times, no I wasn’t cool with that at all.

His talk went for 4 long hours, and by the end I was completely mentally exhausted and could not absorb another single word that came flying out of his peppy mouth. At one point he shared a sad story, his cousin died, (sad but not that bad in the scheme of things, I have lost both my parents so comparatively I don’t find losing a cousin that bad…call me insensitive!) he paused, shed a tear or three, and nearly had a full on breakdown on stage; energy dropping away by the second…No we are not cool. The guy needed a hug.

He only offered a 5 minute break during this talk and actually wanted to penalise people with a $5 charge to the last 3 people who came in from the break. Unbelievable! Really? Yes really. He nearly lost me at this point, but it was free so I figured I might still learn something, and I did, I learnt how not to talk in public! He lost me with his over use of silly phrases, pointless gestures, and did not engage me appropriately; I no longer wanted to buy what he had to sell.

It is great to see as many different people speak as possible, to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Now back to learning more from Avery, because he really did know how to speak well. Let us learn from a champion!

Avery used many engaging and thoughtful catch phrases, a powerful and emotive way to pump his message out. It worked for me. I scribbled them down furiously in my journal; here are some of the phrases I found inspiring:

“Confidence creates competence.” ~ Being confident is public speaking 101. Confidence can be learned, but cannot be forced. Being overconfident is also a deal breaker, egotistical does not go down too well either. Mastering public speaking is a fine balance of eloquence, confidence, intelligence, and engagement.

“Seek to understand before being understood.”~ So good. We often blab on to someone else our problems completely unaware of how the other person is feeling or where they are at in their own heads. Take the time out to listen as well as talk! I must say I can be bad listener. I am already thinking of my reply when someone is speaking, apparently that is a bad thing. People love good listeners, I think we could all improve on that one!

“Always make it simple.” ~ Your message has to always engage an audience and be as simple as possible. Ideally it needs to follow the 6/60 rule, be as engaging and beneficial for someone from the age of 6 to 60. Sounds tricky, but keeping it simple is the key. KISS (Keep it simple stupid).

“Stop multi-tasking.” ~ Boom! Who doesn’t multi-task in this day and age? We pride ourselves on doing a million things at once. Avery pressed on the importance of focusing on one task, giving it your full attention and completing it well; then moving on to the next task. Simple mistakes can be avoided because you are not paying attention as best as you can.

“Just and only, never use these words”. ~ These two words degrade and devalue the meaning of your phrase, and only serve to take the power away from your communication. Since hearing Avery talk about these words, I have caught myself a few times, to eliminate them from my daily speech. So powerful, simple and effective.

“Practise, practise, practise.” ~ To be good at anything you need to practise over and over repetitively to become better. Avery talked about how at the beginning of his journey he made many mistakes. He was not perfect, no one is! He is human! But the difference is that he put his mind to his goal, he focused and practised his speeches repetitively, and he did his best. Turned out his best was the best in the world. Good on you Ryan Avery, in my eyes you are a legend. I am sure you will continue to prosper, and continue to keep engaging a growing and captivating audience. I really enjoyed learning about how to become a better public speaker, now I am really motivated to go out there and try to captivate my own audience on a stage soon!

The stories we tell can be very powerful and inspiring. This beautiful painting is by Francesca Gnagnarella.
The stories we tell can be very powerful and inspiring. This beautiful painting is by Francesca Gnagnarella.

Thanks for reading my reflection on Avery’s speech”The Power of Story Telling”; what a great guy. I hope my message can help spread the word for this young, talented, highly motivated and inspiring natural leader who can give fantastic tips on being a champion Public Speaker.

Love Anita xx

“The rule is, there are no rules” ~ p.152 from Avery’s book ‘Speaker, Leader, Champion.’

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