Exclusive Q&A with Joseph J. Sherman on Public Speaking Mastery

Public speaking is a giant roadblock that many entrepreneurs face with fear. It is a necessary skill to master in a world of entrepreneurs. The ability to articulate an idea to a number of potential business partners, clients, and investors can make or break your entrepreneurial career.

Public speaking skills should be a priority, and the sooner the skills are achieved, the better. The same goes for the amount of practice that is done for this. There is always room to improve a trait like this no matter the number of years of experience that a person may have under his/her belt.

Today, we have a unique opportunity to have a Q&A session with Joseph J. Sherman, an American marketing strategist, public speaker and artist. His work has been featured in The Kenan-Flagler Business School at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Acumen, and The Bank of Jerusalem. He has also presented at The University of California, Berkeley, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, and The Hungarian Embassy in Israel.

Joseph J Sherman

The Q&A touches on various public speaking topics, including how to overcome your fear of speaking in front of hundreds or thousands of people, as well as how to be outspoken about what you believe.

Ivan Widjaya (Q): Hello Mr. Sherman – please tell us a bit about you

Joseph J. Sherman (A): First of all, thank you for having me. I am proud of my past experience in public speaking, and I am more than happy to share the lessons that I have learned on my journey.

Q: You have been doing public speaking since you were eleven years old before a public hearing at the Riverside Municipal Airport. How did you do it?

A: Indeed. I spoke at a public hearing on a social issue in our community about the horrendous noise pollution that had resulted from the massive expansion of the local airport. Prior to this, I had once read in the newspaper that there was going to be a public hearing; I proceeded to ask my parents what a public hearing meant, and this is where they simply explained that any person in the community could speak. I thought, “I am a person in the community” and “I can speak,” so I put 2 and 2 together. I did my homework, wrote it, and spoke before the council and audience.

Q: Let’s talk about public speaking. Why do you think public speaking is important?

A: Public speaking has always been the way to communicate your belief and idea. When you have a concern about a local issue, public speaking helps others understand the real situation from your point of view and persuades them to share your perspective. At first, it may be pleasing to assume that everyone would share your thoughts on a particular topic, but if it weren’t for public speaking, there would be no communication among communities and no ambition for people to express their beliefs and arguments. Whether or not a speech is seen in the “right” or “wrong” view, the most important part about this that not everyone can achieve the strength that confidence is fuelled by to express a meaningful thought.

This intimidating skill is strongly applicable in the business world. I believe that entrepreneurs must acquire, and more importantly, master the public speaking skills for this particular reason: Every entrepreneur will need to speak to investors in team meetings and events.

Pitching your ideas to investors comes with presenting yourself as being articulate and persuasive with your ideas, thereby giving them a clear reason to invest in your business. If you cannot articulate your idea well, you will have a difficult time in gaining trust from potential investors due to the uncertainty in your business endeavors.

For example, in a pitch before Venture Capitalists, your public speaking skills are put to test. Even though you have a great start-up, it will be rendered useless if you cannot spark the members’ interest; this is the difference between being a speaker and being an articulate speaker: you need to have passion teeming among the words you articulate as you speak.

Q: You were a member and officer in Toastmasters International, earning the distinction of Advanced Communicator Gold. What did you learn from Toastmasters?

A: Many people think that public speaking is a natural talent. Although some people are born to be great speakers, there are many people who are not. Toastmasters taught me techniques and an evaluation process to improve my own public speaking abilities. Perhaps the most valuable lesson I took from this was that public speaking is really about developing a support system of colleagues who will help each other develop, present, and improve speeches into powerful messages.

One of the most rewarding applications of this was when a friend asked me to help him speak at a fundraising event in London. An accomplished speaker and leader in Jerusalem, this was the first time he was asked to speak to donors abroad on behalf of a charity that brings girls from troubled homes into a safe environment. The fundraising speech was successful, and I was very glad to have taken a part in helping people.

Q: You have lectured before audiences around the globe. How do you make your message relevant to people from different backgrounds?

A: You need to consider the culture of your audience. I have studied in France and China and I learn that there are differences in the speech pattern. Here’s how to deal with it: Prepare a speech with a local to test your speech content as well as the cultural references. Take feedback and revise your content accordingly.

I recommend that speakers practice each speech with a small group of local business people. The same metaphors, stories and examples that work in one city might not work in another; this is how a small community can clarify what those differences are for you by providing invaluable feedback and assistance. This is also a great way to meet with new people and build a network in a new country.

Q: Any public speaking tips to share with our audience?

A: Fear is a major factor in public speaking. When you are anxious, you cannot articulate your idea well. So, the first and foremost tip is: Overcome your fear.

I recommend pushing yourself to a new audience every month and sometimes, this can be a larger audience. If you are comfortable with a room of 15, try to speak somewhere to a group of 30. This can also be speaking in a different style or setting. Some presenters are very comfortable at a boardroom with a Powerpoint presentation and spread sheets, but it is hard for them to speak at an awards event due to the change in environment. One of my clients was very comfortable delivering a scientific publication at a large academic conference, but he found that speaking before a small group of Venture Capitalists to be challenging. You need to know that people appreciate your boldness. So, be bold.

Many thanks, Mr. Sherman, for sharing your insights with us!