What it means to be committed: “Blimey, I’m nervous but…”

The above picture shows Bourke Cockran on the right in conversation with, among others, Eleonore Roosevelt.

The young Winston Churchill had a mentor: an American speaker and politician by the name of Bourke Cockran, a famous man in his time. Visiting Cockran in New York, Churchill asked him: “Bourke, what is the secret of eloquence?”

Cockran replied:

“Believing in what you are talking about.”

It’s worth repeating because in these words lies the secret to all public speaking: you have to believe in what you say.

When you stand up and speak, do you believe in every word you say? Are you totally committed to that?

Forget the fear

It’s tempting to think that it’s the fear of public speaking that keeps us from good presenting. Well, it’s a little true. But the bigger truth is: presenters feel uncomfortable because they know their content is not that good. They are not committed.

Believe in all you say. When you do, the fear of public speaking is secondary. Because no matter how nervous you are, you can step forward and say to yourself: ‘Blimey, I am nervous. But this is important. I need to share it with you.”

The late Walter Jens, German Homme de Lettres and founder of Germany’s first faculty for rhetorics put it this way: “Dies bin ich, und ich meine es so, wie ich es sage.”

This is me and I mean it as I say it.

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