A $119,000,000 Speech

Well, it was a special kind of speech.  Tobias Meyer, auctioneer for Sotheby’s, recently sold The Scream by Edvard Munch, the most expensive work ever sold at auction.  During the 12-minute speech, Meyer showed great speaking expertise. He knew when to pause, when to change his vocal quality, when to be patient with bidders, when a bidder had offered his last bid, and when to bring down the gavel and conclude with “sold!”  In his $119,000,000 speech, he followed many of the same principles that a speaker does in delivering a presentation.

Although we might not want to admit it, most of us deliver speeches  which are of little consequence.  How many ideas do you remember from speeches you have heard ?  Or how many speakers do you remember? Can you remember what your minister or priest said last Sunday at church? 

Here is something to think about the next time you get really anxious about a presentation you are delivering.  Even though you may appear in front of 20 or 200 or 2000 people, most won’t remember what you say a week later. They may not even remember you a month from now. 

When you lose sleep because you are anxious about the speech you are delivering in a few hours, remember:  that speech is not going to change the world, and perhaps not that audience or a person in the audience. 

When you are anxious about a speech because of how people are going to react to your ideas, keep in perspective that they probably won’t remember what your ideas were. 

Instead, consider thinking about one thought that you want to leave them from your speech. Once you have decided what that one idea is, think about ways to repeat it and say it in several different ways. 

The one thought that Toby Meyer keeps in mind with any of his “auction speeches” is this:  “I am hired at that moment to make the work [piece of art] as expensive as possible.” 

Our main responsibility as speakers is to deliver a speech so that our ideas are as thought-provoking  and memorable as we can.  Don’t expect much more—because the audience won’t.

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Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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