52 Weeks of Speaking 🎤

Every week for 52 weeks, I researched a great public speaker and did a speaking challenge to learn from their style. Here’s what I learned in 5 levels of brevity.

Level 1:

If you don’t feel some emotion while talking, it can’t be a great speech.

Level 2:

How to speak better than 80% of people:

  1. If you don’t feel some emotion talking about it, don’t talk about it.
  1. In every sentence you say, accent 1+ word(s).
  1. Don’t read a script.

Level 3:

Cheatsheet of Speaking Tips (click on links for hyperprecise examples)

A: Content

  • Ask your audience (or at least yourself): “What do they already know? What do they really want to know?”
  • In your story, include content that fits into these buckets.
    • Status quo - what was the environment like day to day before something new and/or interesting thing happened? What were the different people in the story like?
    • Change - what new and/or interesting thing happened?
    • Challenges - which problems, confusion, and uncertainty came up as a result? Vulnerable, ‘deep dark details’ are great. Especially what people were feeling.
    • Growth - who/what helped turn things around?
    • Reward - what great new outcome came about as a result of fixing the problem?
    • You don’t need every single bucket, but do try to have some buckets in this order.
  • Mention common goals, traits, enemies, thoughts between you and your audience. Creates connection.
  • Mention how to see the everyday in a new light (ex: gratitude/wonder for little things, reminder of how the present fits into future or past)
  • Mention criticisms against your point (or self) and your rebuttals. Makes your argument stronger while you’re in control.
    • Strong points = specific points. Ie. use the right stat, quote, graph, word, …
  • Refer back to the same idea/phrase many times (1, 2, 3). Creates engagement + transitions. Also makes a memorable catchphrase.
  • Humour is useful. Though if I have to explain to you how to ‘do humour,’ you probably shouldn’t be ‘doing humour…’
  • Give examples of people who took action on your ideas. Makes your call to action seem feasible / specific.

B: Delivery

  • Don’t read a script. Avoid looking away from your audience.
  • Practice any of the below on your own time so they become automatic. If you’re actively trying to do the below during the big speech, you’ll seem unnatural.
  • As you speak, something besides your vocal chords should be moving.
  • Rhetoric can be useful. But you don’t need it to have a great speech.
    • Analogies - explain a complicated topic using a simpler example. If you have a  unique + simple example, people will remember you.
    • Repetition - start or end multiple sentences the same way. This is easier than other rhetoric.
    • Rhetorical questions - these can be useful hints about what’s coming next. So the audience can follow along easily.
    • Aphorisms (memorable one-liners) - say things worth writing.
    • Juxtaposition - put contrasting words/ideas near each other. 
    • Metaphors - refer to topic A using related topic B. You have to do this consistently to pull it off well.
    • Rhyme/alliteration/assonance/plays on words - to learn about these, you could listen to the speeches of famous politicians. Or you could listen to any rapper.
    • Thought experiments - could be useful to simplify a complex question.

Level 4:


Around the start of my gap year, I was reflecting on what I valued and what I wanted to achieve. I knew that any great human accomplishment was a team effort. So learning to better interact and work with others was one of my main priorities.

Speaking more effectively was part of that larger goal. But I didn’t really know how to get started. I started half-finished notes on body language books, I looked at Youtube videos with those Top Five ____ lists, and I looked into local Toastmasters chapters.

But every resource I found on public speaking felt ‘academic’ or ‘theoretical.’ That’s why I decided to take my education into my own hands. I set myself a weekly challenge to practice public speaking and research a great public speaker to learn from.

At the start, I didn’t know whether I would ever finish this challenge. Now, I can say that I missed only one week (not because I didn’t do the challenge, but because I forgot to upload a video). And I’m very very glad that I took the time to invest in this skill while I wasn’t bombarded by the artificial busy-ness of university.

Cut to the Chase:

I’ve probably spent hundreds of hours intentionally learning and practicing public speaking. I could send you minute tips and tricks to think about down to the exact video and timestamp. And yet, I’ve learned that being able to name the technicalities isn’t what matters.

The best decision I made during my speaking challenge was to intentionally practice every week. I held myself accountable by uploading a Youtube video to practice speaking weekly. After the challenge now, I have much more information about public speaking than midway. But honestly, I was a more effective speaker midway because I was intentionally focusing on practicing every week!

So if you’re looking to speak effectively, the simple advice is this: ditch the ‘raw content’ (whether it’s some great book or this website) and start scheduling time to intentionally practice into your calendar.

  • Intentional practice = you have specific goals about what you want to work on in any given session. Ex: Brevity, intonation, gesticulation, … And you’re collecting feedback and iterating after any attempt.
  • The ‘raw content’ is still useful… AFTER the intentional practice.


As a last note, I’ve done my best in the sections above to really PRIORITISE which speaking lessons matter in which order. I consistently find that people neglect the most simple advice: what you say > how you say it. 

Certainly, there are lots of marketing moguls who’ve made millions saying marvellous-sounding abstractions that aren’t specific enough to matter. (1, 2) There are also good, but not great, speeches which follow every rule in the book, but they don’t inspire. (no offense)

But the speeches that you keep thinking about years later (1, 2, 3, 4) - all of them were delivered and heard by people who viscerally, emotionally connected with what was said.

Public speaking is a tool that could inspire millions to grow. Or it could addict millions to screens. Or it could lead millions to die.

If you wish to dedicate yourself to the path of the orator, I welcome you to a human tradition predating history. Though I also hope you will use this power with the responsibility it demands. 

In somber reflection,


Level 5:

Raw notes here.

Weekly Challenges