During my senior year in college, I needed just a few more credits to graduate—three, I think.
Anyway, my friends suggested I take the public speaking class. They described it as an easy A, no-brainer option and emphasized that attendance was almost optional.
With that recommendation, I enrolled in what I assumed would be a throwaway class, expecting to breeze through it without much effort.
I figured if I did have to go to class, I’d use that time to write rhymes.
However, as fate would have it, this class, taught by Barbara Davis, turned out to be the most valuable part of my entire college education.
Every penny I spent on tuition over those four years paid off in this single class.
It provided me with more than just credits; it gave me the skills and confidence to last a lifetime.
Regardless, Barbara Davis was a phenomenal professor. Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to track her down for years without any luck. If anyone out there knows her whereabouts, please let me know. I owe her a HUGE debt of gratitude that I’m eager to repay.
She didn’t just teach us about public speaking; she gave me the confidence to believe I was good.
Public speaking is often ranked as one of the top fears people have, but Barbara made it less intimidating. She had a unique way of instilling belief in her students, and for me, it made all the difference.
Whether I was truly good at public speaking at the time didn’t matter; she convinced me that I was, and that belief transformed into a love for speaking in front of audiences.
I remember her teaching framework vividly, though I might have added my interpretations over the years. She emphasized four critical elements in delivering a great speech or presentation:
- Start with an icebreaker: Connect with your audience immediately with something funny, interesting, or vulnerable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to your main topic.
- Tell the audience where they’re going: People want to know what to expect, so explain what you’ll discuss.
- Deliver on your promise: Talk about what you said you would talk about.
- Leave your audience with actionable takeaways: Make sure people can walk away with something tangible or thought-provoking.
I’ve been using this framework for over 30 years now. Of course, it has evolved with time, but the core principles remain the same.These guidelines have served me well throughout my career, helping me connect with audiences and deliver impactful messages.So, here’s a shoutout to Barbara Davis, wherever she is, for changing the course of my career and giving me the gift of confidence and skill in public speaking.And if anyone can help me find her, there’s a free calendar and an open invitation to any of my speeches up for grabs!