What Every Speaker Must Do

What Every Speaker Must Do

From the time when I was 2 all the way till I was 22 I probably only read 2 books.

Yes that means I only read the cliff notes in high school and college. Yes that means I have not read the great books like Lord of Flies, Alice and Wonderland or the Great Gatsby. Yes I know it is hard to believe but it is true (you can ask my wife).

I was one of those annoying kids who didn’t have to study and still passed with an above B- average. I used to think this was to my advantage. I bragged about not being a reader and still being an achiever.

I laughed at people who spent days reading and flipped through more than 200 pages of a book when we all new the two hour movie was just about to be released.

Why would people waste their time reading?

At the age of 25 I finally realize the power of pages; the beauty of books. I am sorry it took me this long to discover it but I am thankful I am smart enough now to realize there is nothing stupid about reading. In fact you are irresponsible if you don’t read.

We live in a digital age where books can be downloaded for $0.99 and the messages your new mentors can give you will fuel your mind with more important things than a reality TV show or a re-run of How I Met Your Mother.

40% of the American population never reads another a book after they graduate! I refuse to fit in that category. I might not have read in school but now it is time to play catch up.

If I want to be a better speaker. It is time to be a reader.

A couple books in our library at home!

A couple books in our library at home!

How do you start being a reader?

First, find a genre you are interested in. I started with autobiographies. I can’t keep engaged with action packed fiction but I like authentic autobiographies because they constantly remind me “hey, if they can do it, I can do it.” Then I started with self-help books I am passionate about like speaking, communication and living your fullest life. Find what interests you.

Secondly, if you can’t get through the first 20 pages of a book, you should pick up another book. Don’t waste your time. Keep trying a different genre or book till you find one that grabs your attention and that you like.

Lastly, ask for other people’s advice on what to read. Most likely you are around like-minded people and already share common interests with them. I did this and it lead to my favorite books.

Heck there are more than 300,000 books published in the United States each year and there is a 100% chance at least one of those books you will enjoy.

Don't just read the book. Do what he tells you in the book.

Don’t just read the book. Do what he tells you in the book.

I am currently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.

This is a must read for every speaker (a must read for everyone in fact) but you must do more than read the book.

You must follow along with the exercises in the book. Do you need a change in your life? Do you want to know how to make a difference? Do you want to add value to the people you serve and those you love?

Read this book. No… do the exercises in this book.

To keep myself accountable and so that I am practicing what I preach (as Ben Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.”) and for those of you who are interested, here is my personal constitution and my obituary.

How to Be a Speaker: If you want to be a better speaker be a better reader. Read and read often. Pick up a book today and don’t be like me when I was 22, read at least one book from start to finish in the next 30 days. Commit to reading more… starting today. 

Question: What has been your favorite book 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.

6 Comments on "What Every Speaker Must Do"

  • AJ Johnson says

    As they say, “Leaders are readers!” My favorite recently-read non-fiction is “Why our health matters” by Andrew Weil. It’s my favorite because in the book Weil does an excellent job summarizing his holistic and very reasonable approach to medicine and health. He also has great ideas for what the future of medicine should look like. My favorite recently-read fiction is “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was my favorite because it provided a very nuanced perspective of slavery and human nature that I think is usually brushed over today.

    • Thanks for the book suggestions AJ. I look forward to reading them one day! Hope you are having a great Wednesday.

  • I write fiction in my spare time (which is to say I write fiction every couple of years), so I love reading stories, from shlock to big-headed lit. My favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, and David Foster Wallace.

    Two N-F books that have helped me with writing and speaking are “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White, and “Story” by Robert McKee

  • David says

    Agree with Joe’s “Story” recommendation, but shorter and truly the first one to record the elements of story is Aristotle’s “Poetics”.

    You said you have an aversion to “action packed fiction”, but if you only pick up one Stephen King book, I recommend “The Stand”. It’s one of the only novels I’ve ever read more than once and years after the first time I read it, I was still able to recall MANY of the characters’ first and last names. Very vivid. Very cool. King has a LOT of great reading (and some not-so-great), but if you prefer non-fiction, get “The Stand” to keep around for some distraction-reading, when you want to take a break from the other stuff.

    I’m not surprised you’re enjoying “7 Habits…”. I took a workshop in it and also heard Covey speak once. Very simple, inspirational messages.

    Finally (for this post, anyway): Malcolm Gladwell’s work is constantly referenced in pop culture and his work is both inspiring and intriguing. “Outliers” made popular the 10,000 hours theory that people cite all over the place now. He’s also a very persuasive speaker. Check out his talk on Ted.com.

  • David says

    P.S., Your link to your personal constitution and obituary appears to be broken. {feel free to delete this comment from this thread once you’ve read it}

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