Speaking Lessons from Neil Gaiman

Do you know who Neil Gaiman is? It doesn’t matter if you do or not (however he is a wonderful writer) but we as speakers can learn from his commencement speech he gave to the University of the Arts Class of 2012.

Four lessons Gaiman’s speech taught me that will help us learn how to be a better speaker.

Make Mistakes = Every mistake I have made has helped me become more successful. If I lost $1,000 I learned how I could turn it into $5,000. If I accidently offended someone it gave me great speech material and an opportunity to relate to my audience more. Mistakes are the main ingredient in being successful. You have to have a bucket full of them in order to make an impact. Make mistakes. Make them often and most importantly learn from them.

Make It Your Own = Only be you. You. Give something new to the field you are focused in. Don’t fit the frame. Create a frame! Think of the great artist, writers, athletes or speakers who added the most value to our world. They made it their own and because of it they changed the game. They changed the rules. Picasso changed art. Churchill changed speaking. Jordan changed Basketball. They did it by making their craft their own and not following the rules but following their heart.

Make It Up = No one is programed with knowing how to do things. We make it up. We learn as we go. As some famous country singer sings “Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow.” Everything we do is learned. If you think you need to know how to do something before doing it, think again. All you need to do is commit to making something happen and make it up as you go.

Make Beautiful Art = We are inundated with artwork everyday. Don’t make dull art. Make beautiful art; art that shakes the soul and hits your heart. The world deserves it. The world needs more quality art. We need your art. Whether you use your voice, pen, body or mind, fill our world with beautiful speeches, songs or what you specialize in.

How to Be a Speaker: There are enough dull people, things and places in the world. Make beautiful art. The world needs it.

Question: What Neil Gaiman books do you like? If you don’t know who he is, who is another author you like to read and why? 

This post was written by
At age 25, Ryan Avery became the youngest World Champion of Public Speaking in history; competing against more than 30,000 people from 116 countries to claim the 2012 Championship title. As an Emmy Award winning journalist and a proud member of the National Speakers Association, Ryan uses his background in multimedia and speaking to help reach the younger generation on the importance of improving their communication skills in order to advance in their professional and personal life.

2 Comments on "Speaking Lessons from Neil Gaiman"

  • “What else do you think Neil Gaiman book?” Me thinks Ryan is exhausted. I love all the stuff I’ve read of his though I most appreciate his children’s books. I think its because he never stopped thinking like a child and that’s a beautiful, wonderful thing. Children are way more in tuned with their imaginations and as a result, do better problem solving. But for the sake of answering which Neil Gaiman book, I’d think Graveyard Book would be my favourite.

  • Joe says

    I’m a fan of American Gods, Anani Boys, Neverwhere (although I think Neverwhere was originally supposed to be a television series). What I love about this books is Gaiman’s ability to weave something magical into the mundane.

    Some other authors I like: Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace, CS Lewis and the late Brennan Manning. King for his pure storytelling skill and awesome character development. Vonnegut for his big ideas told simply, DFW for his ability to see the forest and the trees at the same time, Lewis for his mind and Manning for his humility and heart.


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