3 Ways to Win on Stage and in Business According to a World Champion Public Speaker

While not every entrepreneur may take public speaking immediately, it is a skill that can be learned.

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BY Benjamin Loh - 04 Sep 2017

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images


Which is more difficult?

Finding your true love or vying for the top position in the annual World Championship of Public Speaking competition organized by Toastmasters International, involving more than 30,000 contestants from 142 countries?

For 43-year-old entrepreneur and professional speaker, Manoj Vasudevan, both seem to be overwhelming feats. But with the high expectations and love from his family and supporters from Singapore, he was crowned the World Champion of Public Speaking 2017 in the world's largest public-speaking competition.

World Championship of Public Speaking 2017, 1st place Manoj Vasudevan

His winning speech, “Pull Less, Bend More,” was peppered with anecdotes and advice from his mother on making relationships work, enthralling the thousands of Toastmasters members and judges with his well-paced and authentic delivery.

While not every entrepreneur may take immediately to public speaking, Vasudevan believes it is a skill that can be learned. In fact, he confesses not to be a natural speaker but only started seriously practicing in 2009 and also took on emceeing gigs and stand-up comedy shows.

His message to fellow entrepreneurs? Since their job is multi-faceted, he says, a great entrepreneur not just runs the machine, but they carry the weight of the entire company every time they are in public. And in order to succeed, entrepreneurs have to build their profile, dominate the market, and be the face of the company all at the same time.

Hence, public speaking is one skill that entrepreneurs cannot do without. To get started, Vasudevan shares three ways entrepreneurs can turn their stage fright into stage might.


1) Build your presence  

For Vasudevan, one’s presence as a speaker and entrepreneur can be defined simply as what people think of you before you open your mouth to communicate your ideas and value. How do you carry yourself? And what impressions are you leaving on the key stakeholders that you meet?

Hence, it is important to approach not just the stage but also, key events like pitch competitions, alignment discussions with your staff, meetings with investors, engagements with the media with a certain level of self-awareness, clarity of thought, and effective communication.

This can be done through self-reflection exercises, deep introspection, and having 360-degree reviews about yourself with your trusted peers and mentors.


2) Practice your power of persuasion

At the core of leadership is getting people to act.

In Vasudevan’s book, ‘The Mousetrap Way,” he believes there are three key ways to get people into action. First, you can tell people what to do. Second, you can yell at others to do what they need to do. But true leaders, sell.

They do so not just by merely stating their key messages, but by consciously infusing their intent through strategic points, namely: Pleasure, Profit, Power, Productivity, Prestige and Purpose.

Entrepreneurs who are able to design and deliver their message through these infusion points will more likely be able to get a buy-in from their audiences.


3) Make learning a priority   

When Vasudevan works with his clients on enhancing their public speaking and presentation skills, some of the common objections he has heard include: “I cannot learn the skill,” “I don’t have the time,” “Even if I try my level best, I may not match up to my Western counterparts.”

As an Asian entrepreneur and professional speaker, he can empathize with these sentiments, but attributes these beliefs to a fundamental lack of self-confidence. He believes that we all have 24 hours every day, but how we make use of those waking hours is key. Hence, the need to prioritize one’s learning and growth.

As far as public speaking is concerned, Vasudevan understands that it may not always be practical or wise for entrepreneurs to be indiscriminately speaking on different stages if they feel they are not yet ready.  

A good start will be from your daily interactions with your clients, project teams, staff, and partners.

Ask yourself for every point of communication you are having: Are the points landing precisely? Are you being asked to repeat yourself or are your audiences taking your message without major resistance?

Gradually, as you get used to speaking in public, you can start to take on the bigger stages. Vasudevan believes that the best founders embrace the idea of building thought leadership. You can do this by speaking at leading conferences in your market space to present your insights and perspectives.

And the best day to start is never tomorrow. But today.


Benjamin Loh is an Executive Public Speaking Coach and Millennial Professional Speaker who works with Fortune 500 Companies to help their leaders speak and present more authentically and effectively.