Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs…

When my friend Jill Foster asked me to be a speaking coach for some of the speakers at TEDxPotomac, there wasn’t a moment of hesitation on my part.

“I’m in.”

I had no idea who I would be coach, but I did know two things:

  1. I’m a big fan of TED.
  2. I love to help people learn how to—or discover how to—express themselves better so they can influence more people with their ideas.

The title of this post is from Stephen Covey’s The 8th Habit. If you haven’t read this monstrous tome, that’s it in a nutshell: Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs… It really is a great addition to the other 7 habits of highly effective people he covers in his best selling book by the same name.

Not that I’d call myself highly effective.

Moderately effective?

Mildly effective?

Hey, at least I read the book. That counts for something, right?

My experience with TEDxPotomac was a great one and I really enjoyed working with Craig Newmark and Alexandra Cousteau. I hope I helped them connect to the audience more effectively.

Working with Toastmasters International, I’ve helped a lot of people practice and develop their communications skills. It’s a lot of fun and I find it fascinating too. I find how a person speaks to be sort of like a 2-way Rorschach Ink Blot Test conveyed through words. There are many factors that impact how a person communicates. Self-awareness and a little practice can turn these factors into powerful tools or oration.

  • Cadence
  • Word use
  • Voice control
  • Repeating themes

These are just a few examples which I talk about more in other posts. They’re fascinating things to me and if you ever end up in a Toastmasters meeting with me, or hire me as a speaking coach, you now have some idea of the things I look for.

They’re elements of a one person symphony.

The motto of TED is “Ideas worth spreading,” and it’s what I love. I don’t have to agree with an individual’s message, but I respect and support their right to be heard.

Maybe you’re not scheduled for a TED talk any time soon.

I’m not either.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice though.

Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs…


  1. Louise Edington on July 12, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    This is one area I am so afraid of – public speaking. I can talk on paper but not in person. I've become slightly less afraid as I get older and am so much better if I can prepare and have crib words as reminders. It's somethign I need to work on….

    • Dave Saunders on July 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks for the share, Louise. Have you tried Toastmasters? It's a great environment for you to practice public speaking and communications. You receive structured feedback and there's a system to help you learn how to become a better speaker as well.

  2. Donna McCord on July 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Speaking in front of others can be very intimidating to say the least. At the age of 62, I have come to a place where it is not as scary — have learned through participating in Leads Groups where you are required to get up each week and talk about your business and yourself whether you want to or not! So much of how confident I am, though, depends upon the audience itself and how receptive they seem to be. I love your encouragement to “find your voice and inspire others to find theirs”!

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:47 pm

      Hey Donna–a tough room is really tough, eh? Think of some stand up comedians out there though. Some have said that their best performances ever began with the worst audiences. Seek that connection–not solely on your terms, but driven by your passion–and you may find that the tough room breaks like a dam and nourishes you for life.

  3. CAROLYN on July 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Oh my, Dave, what a wonderful post. I appreciate your links throughout, and especially the term “a one person symphony.” Beautiful semantics. I am paying attention to what you are saying, as I am on the brink of beginning to do author signing events and am “working up” my talk. So, I appreciate your points. Don't be surprised if one day you hear from me about speaker coaching… 🙂

  4. Bruce Barone on July 13, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I love public speaking. But today I am more inspired by this: “Find your voice and inspire other to find theirs.” I have found my voice. And I think I inspire others. But I have not helped people to find their voice. Thank You for this lesson. I am going to work on how best I can achieve this goal.

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:45 pm

      Hey Bruce–I think you’ll find your own activities enhanced as you do it too. Let me know how it goes for you!

  5. amy donovan on July 13, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    this so resonates with me! my colleagues + i (see Louise below) have recently begun training to find + cultivate our voices on various social media sites. i can honestly say that watching my colleagues/friends find their online voices has been AS inspiring as seeing it start to happen for myself. inspiration, motivation + self-discovery is contagious!

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      Thanks Amy, it looks like you’re generating a lot of great momentum. Keep it up! 🙂

  6. Lisa Ann Landry on July 13, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I couldn't agree more with what you are doing. Interesting that we have a common passion of empowering people. This week I am empowering women to communicate more assertively. How rewarding it is to see them transform from caterpillars to butterflies.

    Lisa Ann Landry – Corporate Trainer –Unleashing the Genie!

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

      Hey Lisa, that’s a great mission and I wish you lots of success with that. What do you think is the main source of assertion for women in business when they’re speaking and communicating?

  7. Irene Turner on July 13, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    LOVE this post…having a voice that is authentic and that people can actually “hear” what you say is critical in business which is all about communication. Good for you for being a “change agent” with your gift!

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Irene, thanks so much. I agree with you. Authenticity is so important. So many people and businesses put on a facade of perfection and think that it’s the path to success and riches (or whatever). The recent Old Spice activity on YouTube and Twitter is a great example of how much you can do by just having fun and being willing to try something that might not work.

  8. julialindsey on July 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I love Stephen Covey's book. After reading the 7 habits of Highly effective Families we wrote our mission statement. One of the statements on our family mission statement is to find your passion and follow your dream. That simple statement has made all of the difference in my children's lives.

    If you find your voice or passion it is easy to inspire others. They may not be inspired to follow you but they will be inspired by your passion.

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:40 pm

      Hey Julia, that sounds like a great element in your family mission statement. Things like that are like the magnetic North for your internal compass.

      People don’t need to follow me. That’s not the point. I just hope they take their own passions and use them to influence the world as they were intended.

  9. chrislwagner on July 14, 2010 at 4:13 am

    Hi, great post, I've been thinking about joining Toastmasters just to gain more confidence. I'd love to be able to inspire people in a way that would get through to them. You sound very enthusiatic about what you're doing and have found your voice. Keep going for it.

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:37 pm

      Hey Chris, Toastmasters is a great environment for developing your skills. As skills develop, the confidence comes along with it. Just get out there and do it! 🙂

  10. Heidi Alberti & Atticus on July 14, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Dave I am impressed!! I absolutely love TED, and for you to be asked to consult with their speakers is a huge accomplishment! Obviously, you must be really good at coaching to land this gig.
    I am very comfortable expressing my ideas in written form, but speaking is a whole other ballgame… an uncomfortable ballgame, for me!

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      Hey there Heidi, thanks for the kind words. What would you say is the most uncomfortable aspect of speaking in public to you?

  11. Jean Bentley on July 15, 2010 at 12:41 am

    Speaking in public, even to just a few people is a struggle for me. Haven't been to a Toastmasters meeting, might be time to look in to it.

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:35 pm

      Hey Jean, let me know how your first visit goes. Toastmasters has been around for about 80 years and can provide you with a lot of value. It's a great environment for developing your skills as a speaker, communicator and leader.

  12. Darcie Newton on July 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I love TED too. What an amazing forum for new ideas. I love to take a break from my day and watch something completely off topic to what I do…it is truly fascinating to learn what people are doing out there.

    And some of their speakers definitely need your help. Although sometimes just the compelling nature of their subject gets me through their lack of speaking skill. And it is a skill that takes time to acquire.

    How often do you think a theme needs to be repeated in a 30 minute talk?

    • Dave Saunders on July 15, 2010 at 8:34 pm

      Hey Darcie, thanks for the comment. I think that you shouldn't let your listeners go more than 5-7 minutes without being reminded of what you're talking to them about. Thirty minutes is way to long to carry a story arc.

      How you structure that can come different ways. Some talks lend themselves well to a repeating mantra–like an incantation–which comes along in the talk like a mile marker on the road. This helps keep pace in your talk and keeps the mind of listener on the same road as you.

  13. Candace C. Davenport on July 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Dave- Congratulations on your job with TED. Very nice.

    Although communication has always come fairly easy to me, there is “speaking” and there is “speaking”! Even if speaking in front of a group doesn't scare you, you really can't just go up there and start talking. As you mentioned, there is so much more.. the cadence of your words, the words you choose to use. And that may change, with the same speech, depending on who you are talking to. Bringing people in with how you say something- louder vs. softer. It really is an art. I don't mind speaking, but I just talk. I need to learn it as an art. Glad there are people out there like yourself that are great speaking coaches.

    It is sort of the way when I work with our authors. People can just sit down and write and they can write effectively. There is a difference!


  14. Jennifer Duchene on July 17, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Exciting opportunity for you Dave, and I am sure you rose to the challenge. I believe you are right, its all about communicating. Love having a list of possible potential tools to control how one connects. All music to your ears by the sound of it. Inspiring others to speak or share is a talent worth cultivating. Sounds like a beautiful career. Indulge and enjoy. Hope we pass each other in the Toastmaster Halls.

  15. Lisa Ann Landry on July 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    In response to your question I think the most important thing for women in business when it comes to assertiveness is to be clear assertiveness is NOT aggressive. It is standing up for your rights without violating the rights of others.

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