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From bad to good to great speakers

What separates a good teacher from a bad one? Here’s Keith Johnstone’s take – one of the pioneers of improvisational theatre:

People think of good and bad teachers as engaged in the same activity, as if education was a substance, and that bad teachers supply a little of the substance, and good teachers supply a lot. This makes it difficult to understand that education can be a destructive process, and that bad teachers are wrecking talent, and that good and bad teachers are engaged in opposite activities.

The same applies to speaking in general.

What’s interesting is this: Whether you are a good or a bad speaker in Johnstone’s sense is not so much about whether your audience liked your presentation. You can give exciting speeches and still destroy your audience. For example, you can point in the right direction and at the same time discourage to follow it. You can speak in a motivating way and your audience feels pumped after your speech, yet can’t put it into action and feels bad because of it.

The important question to ask is in what way are Taylor and Casey and Kim transformed by your speech. Do they see the world with different eyes? Can they act upon what you made them see? Can they do it on their own?

This is what separates good from great speakers. Good speakers make their audience see. Great speakers enable, even empower their audience. Bad speakers, on the other hand, do not just waste their audiences’ time. They crush the audience by misleading them and treating them with ignorance.

How can you move your audience to action? How can you empower them?

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