If you want to improve your public speaking ability, forget about studying the likes of Steve Jobs, Michelle Obama, and Winston Churchill.

There’s one figure above all others that will really show you how to get there:

Arnold Schwarzzeneger

WTF, Kola?!?!!!? You’ve gone loco, bro! Off the deep end! You musta hit your head and lost your mind! What the hell could a muscle-bound, steroid-popping body builder with a thick Austrian accent famous for playing monosyllabic cyborgs possibly teach me about public speaking?

I’m glad you asked.

(download this week’s checklist: 9 simple exercises to make yourself more articulate)

The problem with studying the Obamas and Churchills of this world is that they make things look deceptively easy, and this is the worst way to learn. What use watching Michael Jordan do a backwards dunk if you’re still learning to bounce the ball with your weaker hand? How helpful is it to watch Lang Lang dazzle back and forth along the entire length of the piano when you’re still playing chopsticks.

There is a time and place for learning from the best, and it is always a good thing to be inspired by genius, but very often, the greatest lessons come from observing those with low or average ability, who through hard work and dedication have achieved steady, incremental progress to reach levels that seemed unfeasible at the start.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger first went to the US, he could hardly speak a word of English, and certainly wasn’t a charismatic presenter. He knew very few phrases, and as a complete unknown outside of body building, he couldn’t rely on celebrity to buy him the unquestioning adulation of his audience. But instead of shying away from the microphone, he sought out every opportunity to speak in public, making gradual improvements, focusing on ‘little victories’ and visualising himself as a great speaker. Step by step, little by little, he transformed himself from a one-dimensional Terminator into a charismatic Governor of the wealthiest state in the United States, California.

It was hard fought, he faced many set backs, but he never gave up.

Personally, as much as I enjoy watching the greats, I find it sometimes more inspirational to see growth from a standing start.

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer – Albert Einstein

I know you’re still not fully convinced about Arnold, so try this.

Take everything you think you know about Schwarzenegger (the big muscles, the inane grin, the accent, those ridiculous comedy movies), and then watch his Oslo speech on climate change.

There’s nothing sexy or groundbreaking about it. It’s a bit too long and sometimes meanders. But in the context of a guy who could hardly string two words together at the start of his career, this is a remarkable performance. It’s a solid, well crafted speech, given by a man that has worked hard to successfully raise his game from very humble beginnings.

(here are some exercises you can use to improve your own public speaking and articulacy)

(gets properly going from about 2mins 21)

If you want soaring oratory, go for Obama; if you want rich storytelling, watch the Ted Talks. But for practical proof that however bad you think you are at public speaking right now, you can improve dramatically if you just stick at it, you could do worse than follow the example of the big man from Austria.

That’s it for this week. But of course… I’ll be back!

Kolarele Sonaike

Founder, Elevator Pitch School

p.s. Be sure to download my Free Checklist: 9 simple exercises to make yourself more articulate

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