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Have Speeches Will Travel

November 26th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Three things happened this week which seem to have something in common.

First, I was telling a friend, fellow writer and one-time neighbour that most of the feedback on my last speech related to depression. This had surprised me because the presentation was not on depression and anxiety, but was on a humorous topic. At least I thought it was humorous. And the frequent laughter from the audience suggested they agreed with  me. My only references to depression were two indirect comments made in passing — that I had changed my mind and was going to speak on a lighter topic, and that I had spent the summer holidays of 1993 in the psychiatric ward of a Toronto hospital. It’s true the young lady who thanked me, following my presentation, did mention the title of my latest book (If Only Sleep Would Last Forever! Help for Depression and Anxiety from One Who’s Been There).

My ears perked up when my friend said, “You should hook up with Margaret Trudeau.” He went on to say we’d both experienced it (in her case bipolar, in mine major depression), we’d both experienced serious repercussions because of it, we’d both written about it, we both give speeches about it. He related he had attended a speech by Margaret at the high school in Campbellford, Ontario, that he had to leave the hall more than once to compose himself. “It really touched me,”  he said. He admits he has been no stranger to depression himself. And he was familiar with the positive feedback I had received in April from the grade 9 and grade 12 students at Norwood District High School — students who had not long before lost a fellow student to suicide. One wrote, “It wasn’t a speech by someone who didn’t know what it’s actually like to be depressed…and how to fix it.”

In fact, my friend who is now telling me to contact Margaret Trudeau was the one who initially encouraged me to give the speech in high schools. He said he would even make the first contact at Norwood. “Who should I speak to?” he asked. I said probably the guidance counselor. And he had made the first telephone call and paid the first visit to the school. “Imagine the number of people you could help,” he said. “Send her an e-mail,” he urged. I’m still screwing up my courage.

Second, in the parking lot of a grocery store today, I heard a man’s voice say, “Mr. Watson, could I speak with you for a second?” Since I retired from teaching ten years ago, not many people have called me ‘mister’ . As a younger man was with him, I surmised he could’ve been the father of a former student. But he quickly explained. “I saw the sign on your car. And my wife is often looking for a speaker….” As we were walking into the store — he and his son for some salads and I for water cress for a salad (we seemed to be on the same wavelength)– he asked me for my business card and said his wife would be calling me.

Third, a young lady was telling me her son just entered junior high. She said, “Stand-up comic that he is — still doesn’t like to be in front of a group.” I told her I didn’t give my very first speech (or ‘oral composition’) until I was in grade 9 at Norwood District High School. Usually very shy and self-conscious, I was not nervous. I was scared stiff!

Now, the person whose greatest fear was speaking in public in front of others (that’s me), ironically stands up in front of students and coaches them on (you guessed it!) public speaking. The title of my speech is ‘Ways to Reduce Fear in Public Speaking.’ Like me back then, the vast majority of students seem to have three basic questions of the audience: Will they like me? Will they be interested in what I have to say? Will they be able to hear me over the sound of my hammering heart and knocking knees? They are quite surprised — happily surprised — when I explain the secret of composing and delivering a speech that will turn fear and apprehension to peace of mind and confidence. And get a  ‘yes’ answer to all three questions. And, if the secret worked for me, it can certainly work for anybody. And turn any fearful individual into a more confident communicator.  

In fact, when I gave that speech in February to the pupils in grade 4 to 8 at St. Paul’s Elementary School in Norwood, Ontario, the teacher in charge of their public speaking contest said, “Many students, directly after your speech, were very keen to work on and improve their speeches…. I personally enjoyed your speech very much…. Thank you again and again.”

After I had finished telling that young lady about my speech on public speaking, she said, “You could probably present that particular speech to every school in the area.” And, if invited, I’m ready to do just that. For I see myself in those classrooms — wanting to do my best, fearing failure, looking for help. And I’d love to save even one student from the pitfalls and banana peels that lay in my earlier path.

What do these three happenings have in common? They all relate in one way or another to speeches. When I was considering a name for my website, two thoughts were bouncing around in my mind. ‘Speaking to Inspire’ was not my first idea. My first idea was HAVE SPEECHES WILL TRAVEL. Imagine what my e-mail address would’ve been.  Since so many listeners have called me a motivational or inspirational speaker — “You really inspire me” or “You really motivate me!” — I finally decided my e-mail should be murray@speakingtoinspire.com.

My speeches this year included Peer Support Niagara in St. Catharines, St. Paul’s Elementary School in Norwood, Norwood District High School, The Toronto Public Library, The Warkworth Community Service Club. Thinking about these different places, and different speeches, I realize my label could just as easily have been HAVE SPEECHES WILL TRAVEL. (Now, if I could just come up with a short speech that could travel to a laudable lady named Margaret!)


Murray says, “My purpose is to share smiles, wisdom and encouragement — to lift your life. If I can serve you by making a speech to your group, please contact me.

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