I can’t think of a better day to begin a public speaking improvement journey, than on the day we as a nation, celebrate one of the most influential orators our country has ever produced, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
First a little background. I get the opportunity to speak publicly about once a year, usually to a large crowd at a work-related conference. While those sessions tend to go fine, once a year is just not frequent enough to truly get comfortable in front of a crowd. Knowing this and knowing that I plan to do a lot more public outreach on topics that I’m passionate about, such as street epistemology and critical thinking, I gave myself a New Year’s resolution of delivering at least five public talks on critical thinking-related topics this year.
On MLK Day, I had the opportunity to knock one of the five off the list. It was also something I haven’t done since I was in high school….give an extemporaneous speech! With zero prep time, I picked a random Martin Luther King, Jr. quote from a basket, and then delivered a short speech based on that quote in front of a crowd of strangers.
It is great to be forced out of your comfort zone like that. Using inspiration from the quote, I’d like to believe that I put together a fairly cohesive speech about Dr. King, how he valued education, and how the real value of an education is in teaching children how to think, not just what to think. I wanted to make sure I reiterated to the audience, that education doesn’t stop once you leave the schoolhouse, and as life long learners, we all have to understand how to evaluate claims by honing our critical thinking skills. I could feel the ideas getting a bit jumbled at times, but fortunately – and for me this is a huge success – I only interjected one “uhh” in the process!
Finally, if I learned anything at all from the experience, it’s that I need to make sure I have a strong antiperspirant. 😂 On to the next speech!