masks

Interview with Olivia Schofield

Olivia, when I ask my seminar participants to name great public speakers from the past and the present, the answers tend to range from JFK to Gandhi and from Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs. Aren’t there any great female speakers?

It is true that traditionally we think of male speakers when we are asked to name a great speaker, but there are women out there.

Oprah Winfrey speaks on topics she is passionate about, passion helps any speaker shine. She is comfortable being herself and being oneself is crucial to being a great speaker.

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post talks about sleeping your way to the top. She is an advocate for getting enough sleep. Despite a strong accent, her speech is witty and relevant, but a simple idea. She doesn’t feel the need to appear smart. Now that’s what I call smart!

Whether you agree with their views, both Margaret Thatcher and Hilary Clinton are masterful speakers in a predominantly male arena, politics.

One of my favourite Ted Talks is Jill Bolte Taylor. She studies the brain even when she herself is having a stroke. Her speech is lively, accessible and creates images in the listener’s mind. After all a great speaker is a movie maker. Passion and honesty speak volumes.

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You are one of them… Do you have any plans to help empower more women in the limelight?

It took me half my life to find my voice and the other half to realise I had something to say. Now there is no stopping me! I want to blaze a trail for women, not just as speakers, but as champions of their own life.

I run a women’s session that looks at how our nature, which is one of nurture, needs to be focused inwards to nurture ourselves. Our instinct and our value historically is through nurturing those around us.

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it, as the expression goes. I am a mother of two teenage girls and I’m travelling extensively as a speaker, however… there is a price to pay. Compromises have to be reached and sometimes an important event in my child’s life has to be missed. But they respect what I’m doing and I’m setting a benchmark for them too.

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You overcame a speech impediment and now you are a world-class public speaker. What are your key lessons learned on your path?

Often we focus on our weaknesses rather than our strengths. When we fail we feel a failure. Well, a failing doesn’t make us failures, it just means something we tried didn’t work out. No matter how much we strive to gain validation from outside, it is worthless without validation from inside.

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If you could give three tips to rookies on stage, what would you recommend?

Instead of trying to sound like a professional, try and sound like yourself. An actor is an expert at being someone else, but speakers are experts at being themselves. Be yourself.

Don’t try to be clever, keep it simple, keep sentences short and keep the audience connection.

Energy is key, not necessarily outward energy, but that smouldering internal energy. Like the energy of a tiger, you know it can pounce, however even when it is just strolling along you feel its power.

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You’ve reached the final round of the World Championship of Public Speaking. What are your new challenges?

I want to write a book. I have written one “A thief, A failure, A fabulous future” which is the story of my journey from a troubled childhood to centre stage at the World Championship of Public Speaking. However I plan a new one to help others “Sizzle on Stage”.

Thank you so much, Olivia! And Keep sizzling on stage!