Sunday, 15 July 2007

Breaking the rules of public speaking

There are many rules of public speaking, which were told we should never break. These include greeting your audience when you come out to speak, never turning your back on the audience, and ensuring that you move across the stage, so everyone can see.

But where do these rules come from? And why should we have to obey them?

I recently had the opportunity to speak at TOASTMASTERS convention in Fremantle Australia. This was for the toastmasters district 73 championship. I was speaking on the table topics competition, which is an impromptu speaking competition. I was given my topic when I came to the door, and I had to speak on when I got to the stage.

The topic that I was given was about breaking rules, and if we obey all the rules, do we miss out on half the fun?

When I went to speak, I thought I would break all the rules that I could. I walked to the centre of the stage, turned my back on the audience, and began to speak. I then parodied the notion that we have to move around the stage to ensure we maintain eye contact. I then poked fun at how we pause, how we introduced ourselves to the audience and judges, and whether or not we follow rules just because they are there.

What was the upshot of all this? Well, the audience loved it, I had a ball, and the judges seem to like it to. I'm proud to say, that I walked away as the champion.

However, before you go breaking the rules, you first have to know the. If you break the rules of public speaking incorrectly, or for too long, you will lose your audience. And that is the secret: know the rules, so you can break them properly.

You can view my performance on the stage new tube at

Notice how, when I'm walking across the stage, I begin to lose the audience, as I have not made a connection with them. It is at this point that I realised I had to turn around and be conventional. However, I was able to use the pause to great effect to milk another joke. In the end, I did come back to the traditional rules of public speaking. I needed to have the opening, the body, and the conclusion. If I didn't, my presentation would not have made as much sense, and I wouldn't have won the competition.

Knowing how to make them break the rules of public speaking requires you to first know what they are. You can get heaps of information about public speaking from toastmasters, private public speaking courses, public speaking coaching, reading articles about public speaking on the Internet, viewing public speaking videos on you tube, or trawling the net to people such as Darren laCroix, the public speaking blog, David Brooks, and world champion speakers.

Till next time,


Darren Fleming
Australian public speaking courses,

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