speaking

By Mark E. Smith

I recently watched a Ted Talk by a public speaking coach who gave the secrets to being a great speaker. She spoke of relaxed posture. She spoke of soft breathing. She spoke of using your diaphragm. She spoke of controlled speech patterns. And, she spoke of overall body composure. Really, based on all she covered, I should never roll on a stage or speak in front of a group ever again because my cerebral palsy prevents every technique she noted. According to her, I’m the antithesis of a speaker, her worst nightmare.

Yet, over the past 25 years, I’ve spoken to more groups than I can count; I’ve made a remarkable number of TV appearances; and, I speak formally within my company in many capacities every day – all with tremendous efficacy. So, how do I – as one with severe cerebral palsy – defy the rules of the experts and achieve success in my career with so much speaking?

The answer is, I am just me and I always speak from the heart. I don’t need to be a polished robot, nor do I need to try to be someone I can never be. When you hear me speak – sometimes labored, sometimes slurred, sometimes spastic – you’re getting the real me. What greater gift can we give others than the real us, perfectly imperfect, speaking from the heart?

Among the reason why I address groups within our company is because I’m so passionate about what we do and I’m so inspired by the profound difference each employee makes in the lives of our customers. And, so one of my greatest privileges is speaking to groups of our employees, both weekly with new hires, and monthly at our birthday lunch, where we celebrate employees’ birthdays.

It’s my pleasure to share with you one of my talks with our employees. What I want you to note is that I’m clearly not what that speech coach envisioned. Rather, I’m real and imperfect – the two traits that we should all embrace to make a true impact in the lives of others. There’s no one more captivating than who we truly are.

Crank up the volume and enjoy this 12-minute talk:

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