This morning, I helped a French speaker develop confidence in his public speaking. I told him to find a speech that he liked and to speak it in French.

He chose the speech by Dominique de Villepin, a speech that was delivered at the UN Security Council on 14 February 2003 against the war in Iraq.

He then spoke and delivered in his mother tongue.

After making preliminary observations, I told him about weight placement, body language, voice modulation, pauses, and pitch.

He practised and practised and practised.

Almost an hour later when he spoke these sentences with gusto — “We all share the same priority of fighting mercilessly against terrorism. This fight requires a total determination.” (English translation) — I felt a sudden chill.

His voice was strong, intentional, decisive. His clenched fists pummelled the air.

It worked.

Then we moved to the paragraph in green.

Because the language was more inspirational and visual — “In this temple of the United Nations, we are the guardians of an ideal, we are the guardians of a conscience “, I told him to stress on “we” (at least in the English version) to give it a more emphatic meaning.

He spoke.

I sat back and listened to the speech again.

It was a powerful script and he delivered it convincingly with charisma and humanity. The metaphor of us being “guardians” evoked very strong images.

This coaching session made me reflect on the urgency and need for leaders to speak well, especially in today’s tumultuous political climate, leaders who can make a positive impact in the world.

© 2010 | EDMUND CHOW