Public Speaking Tip from Odetta

“No one can dub you with dignity. That’s yours to claim.”

Those are the words of folk singer and civil rights legend Odetta, who died this week.   If you don’t know about her, check out her obituary in the New York Times.

She wasn’t a noted public speaker. But the above quote touches on what great speakers do. Great speakers claim dignity by trusting in their own voices and speaking with passion.

Yesterday, I was in a workshop where one of the participants made a large stride in improving his ability to connect with audiences. He really was getting it. He was speaking with a kind of passion that anyone could see was real and unique to him.  And when he saw himself on videotape, I could see him getting nervous.

“I’m not sure I can do that,” he said. “Everyone is going to wonder what happened to me. It’s not what they’re used to seeing.”

But great speakers embrace how good they can be without fear. They realize that their passion is their dignity. They embrace it rather than run from it.

That’s what Odetta did.

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