Recently I had the honor of being asked to do some public speaking coaching for a great New Orleans based organization “Son Of A Saint”. The founder, Sonny Lee, asked if I might assist a couple of their young “mentees” as they spoke at the podium to hundreds of guests at their annual gala. No small task for anyone, never mind a 14-year old.

My main focus was on Quinten Crump, who’d been a mentee in the SoaS program for that last six years. Sonny explained that Quinten was to introduce their new video at the gala, and he only needed to speak for a minute, and that Quinten was already pretty comfortable with public speaking. Slam dunk, right?

Sure enough, when Quinten and I first met, he made it clear that he had spoken to large rooms before, and he already knew what he wanted to say. “That’s great”, I told him. “Let’s hear it”. We started by sitting casually at a table and letting him talk.

It became quickly clear that while Quinten was indeed confident, he was pretty much making up what he was going to say on the spot. And while he was trying to deliver with confidence, it meandered, had no central message, and was basically flat. After a few minutes of this back and forth I tried a different angle.

“Quinten, forgot the speech for a moment. What is the one thing that you wish everyone knew about the Son Of A Saint program? What makes it special?”

Instantly, his false bravado disappeared, his eyes softened, and he said “The program takes a kid from the darkest, scariest place, and brings them into a place of light and hope.” I held his look for a moment and then told him, now he has his message.

From there we built around that core message and worked on the intro, podium delivery (posture, entrance etc), and he was ready to go.

When the big moment came, Quinten delivered his line, and the audience interrupted him with spontaneous applause. So what can we learn from a 1 minute intro by a 14 year old when it comes to our speaking opportunities?

1.    Find your central message: What is that single point you want to make sure everyone in the room gets. Once identified…

2.    …Nail the point! Find a creative way to frame it with phrases like “If there is only one thing you take away from tonight, it’s…”

3.    Stand and deliver. No podium hanging or bracing. Plant those feet, lift that chin and deliver with purpose. Your audience will sense your confidence.

If you’d like to learn more about Son Of A Saint program:

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