I had the honor of attending a keynote address from Attorney David Henderson at the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) Development Day. David was the keynote speaker for the Central Texas NFBPA Chapter, which recently won Chapter of the Year. He’s the Toastmaster from San Antonio, Texas who won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking in 2010. Henderson had presented his winning speech, titled “The Aviators” to a crowd of more than 1,600 fellow Toastmasters from 113 countries.
David had some top tips on public speaking, which were not what you’d expect. After all, he wasn’t expected to win the Championship. He hadn’t been in Toastmasters very long (just 3 years) and had a nonconforming style of incorporating stories that brought the audiences to tears. Traditionally, speakers are taught to project their voices, enunciate well, use repetition, make eye contact with the audience, open with a joke, provide three solid points without seeming rehearsed, etc. Henderson may feel that these are tips on how to talk “at” the audience, not with them. Stories, he said, have been told for centuries and the best ones are still remembered today.
Here’s what I gleaned from the keynote, which was to the group of public sector employees at the event, who ranged from various areas of the workforce, including top city managers and chiefs of staff. These are my takeaways based on Henderson’s advice.
At the end of the David’s address, the audience gave a standing ovation. Powerful speeches are often those that touch us. These tips can not do justice to the power, precision and thoughtfulness of the ideas David provided, but they’re key insights into improving our communication skills with audiences of all sizes.