For as long as we’ve been in business, public speaking training has been one of our core offerings.
Because in spite of 34 years of advancing technology, the need to connect with other people remains.
And I firmly believe it’ll be the same in another 34 years.
Let’s step back in time to see why.
When we started our business in 1989, the world was very different.
The Berlin Wall still stood.
The average mobile phone weighed more than a newborn kitten.
And since then, we’ve lived through global terrorist attacks, a pandemic, and three recessions.
Yet throughout of all that, our leaders, in politics and business, have been held to a high standard.
Particularly when they aim to communicate the effect that all these have on us.
A few months after my own dad, Bill, and Alan Douglas started our business in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell.
Having studied that moment, its build-up and fallout for four years, I can tell you the reasons for that are many and contested.
But what we do know for sure is this.
Public speaking played its role in the wall’s collapse.
It began back in the 1960s with JFK’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.
Via Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall!” speech in 1987.
And right up to the very evening of the fall itself.
The actual cause of the fall of the wall was a Politburo official being unprepared for a press conference.
Günter Schabowski arrived late for a run-of-the-mill speech on production.
He was then asked by a local journalist about whether they had considered easing restrictions of the free movement of people.
Scraping around for papers, he erroneously read out an internal draft, which he assumed was for public consumption.
He announced the free movement of people between East and West Berlin would begin immediately.
It’s an incredible account detailed in full here.
Fast-forward to the modern day.
Even this week in the UK, we’ve seen how the SNP have been criticised for refusing to let journalists into its party hustings.
And how former Health Secretary Matt Hancock is still being criticised for getting too close to the media.
So whether it’s 1989 or 2023, we know we must embrace public speaking.
And that includes having a healthy relationship with the press and answering the questions that follow.
Covid-19 caused change.
First, it gave us all the headache of learning a new set of public speaking skills.
Public speaking to the camera rather than an audience.
Public speaking from your living room rather than the stage.
And public speaking where everyone could simply leave the call anonymously if they were bored.
So we have to work on several things.
Virtual interaction, talking to the camera, while being well-lit and with clear audio.
Higher levels of engagement, with more stories, fewer slides and bucketloads of enthusiasm.
And an emphasis on short talks.
Because let’s be honest, when was the last time you had a Teams call that you’d wished was longer?
Second, I’m noticing a new trend post-pandemic for in-person sessions.
And that’s simply that many of us have forgotten how to communicate face-to-face.
I believe it’s as a result of having spent so long online or working from home.
So the burden is on all of us.
If we want to build relationships, we need to get out in front of people regularly.
Remember the skills required to hold an audience in the palm of your hand.
Our newly-designed Talk like TED courses are designed to do just that.
What will public speaking training look like in 34 years’ time?
By 2057, I’ll be considering retirement. That’s a frightening thought.
I suspect our lives will be more dominated by technology than ever.
I envisage a world of space travel, nuclear fission-driven energy and of course, many ‘unknown unknowns’, to quote Donald Rumsfeld.
But I do believe that fundamental need to connect will remain.
Alongside security, love and belonging are among the most basic of human needs.
And those who can communicate via all forms – on stage, on Teams, and as they’re travelling intergalactically – will be the ones who rise to the top.
So get in touch now and futureproof yourself.
We’ll show you how to master public speaking.
So that the next time you’re on stage in front of an audience, your legacy is less Schabowski and more Reagan.
Andrew McFarlan is Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications.
Read more about him here.
Photos in Business public speaking training blog by Pink Elephant and Xu Chen,
Business public speaking training blog written by Andrew McFarlan.
Business public speaking training blog edited by Colin Stone.
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