Preface by Paul du Toit, CSP

Just as a well written article or book is a pleasure to read, so a well delivered speech is a joy to hear. Usually articles and books are edited prior to publication, and once in print don’t change. Not so the spoken word. Exceptional speaking may be related to the art of mimicry, but those that do it well will concede that it is a learned skill, and one historically mastered by few, rather than many. Indeed, exceptional speakers are highly sought after and well paid for a 40 minute keynote speech.

The good news is that exceptional speaking can be learned. It just takes perseverance and a bit of practice.

I encountered Alan for the first time at a convention of the Professional Speaking Association in Brighton in 2005. Although we didn’t meet on that occasion, he stood out on account of his height. When we were introduced a few months later, we swapped business cards. The following Friday, The Media Coach eZine arrived in my inbox, as it has continued to almost every Friday since. It’s one electronic newsletter I always go back to if I can’t devour it immediately. I usually scroll down first to the weekly presentation tip, because although I have authored a book on presentation skills*, I would usually learn something new, discover a different angle or marvel at some apt historical fact or reference related to speaking that Alan has somehow unearthed.

We have subsequently met at many international speaker conventions on 5 continents and developed an enduring friendship. It was after one of these meetings, over a cup of tea in London that an idea popped quite spontaneously into my head. What if we collect many years of Alan’s insightful tips and turn them into a book for speakers? I could include some of my regular blog posts and articles, reorganize the content into chapters, and who knows? Without thinking I asked Alan the question. “What a great idea” replied Alan without missing a beat “let’s do it. Let me know what I can send you.” And so the Exceptional Speaker was born. It was another year before I would begin work on the over 400 tips to be sorted, categorized and merged.

My most rewarding outcome from this project has been the amount I have learned from Alan and his weekly tips about the keynoting side to presentation. My greatest insight during my decade long foray into professional speaking has been the “abundance mentality” of so many of the world’s best professional speakers – of which Alan is undoubtedly one. The greater the speaker, the more abundant their mentality. They know without question that there is always room for improvement, and that it’s a craft that should be continuously worked on. They also give generously of their discoveries and knowledge.

The multitude of tips contained in these pages is for that very purpose, dear reader: To help you become better and more confident at speaking to an audience. And to thoroughly enjoy yourself whilst doing so.

For whom is this book written? Professional speakers will find a treasure trove of useful tips in these pages. But it is also for toastmasters, presenters and people who may speak to an audience no more than once or twice a year – or even less.

How should one read such a book? Those that derive an income from speaking (or wish to) may prefer to read the book from cover to cover more than once, making notes as they go. Others may prefer to use this as a reference book, delving only into the specific chapters required. You choose for yourself how you can best use this book. If you speak to audiences, no matter what the context, there’s plenty here for you. If you’re short of time and would like just a short glimpse per chapter or a refresher, page to the end of that chapter for “Key Lessons”.

We’d love to hear of your speaking experiences, or if you have enjoyed the book or specific parts of it, or applied some of the principles to your speaking, do drop us a note at pdt@congruence.co.za or alan@mediacoach.co.uk.

Who knows, your story might appear in a blog on our website www.exceptionalspeaker.com.

Paul du Toit, Certified Speaking Professional, author of *“You Can Present with Confidence” and co-author of “The Exceptional Speaker”.