Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, routinely speaks before thousands of people. He takes part in dozens of interviews and is one of the more quoted billionaires in the country. However, while he seems cool as a cucumber in front of the crowds, once he had an absolutely paralyzing fear of public speaking. In fact, he would get so nervous he often became ill before taking the podium.
“You can’t believe what I was like if I had to give a talk,” Buffett explained in the biography, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. “I would throw up.”
However, all of that changed when he took a Dale Carnegie course in public speaking. There, he gained the tools to overcome his fear of talking. He often credits the course with giving him enough courage to propose to his first wife, Susan Thompson Buffett.
These are four of the lessons that Buffett learned in the course which helped change his life and allowed him to become one of the richest men in the world:
1. Learn as much as you can about your topic
If you are knowledgeable about a topic, then you’ll be able to speak authoritatively about it and will be less nervous overall. In short, be prepared and know what you’re going to talk about.
Buffett, an avid learner and reader, is a prime example of this. He is continually absorbing new things and, much like the investing circle of competence, widening the list of things that he can talk about comfortably.
2. Talk about your own experiences
The best way to connect with people is to add a personal touch to whatever you’re talking about. This is usually done through the form of personal anecdotes, and it’s another thing that Buffett excels at. He often gives examples from his personal life not only in his speeches, but also in his interviews and Q&A sessions.
3. Instead of a draft, jot down notes or an outline
When confronted with the idea of giving a speech, the first instinct may be to write out what you’re going to say, but in fact, that is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. Instead, notes are the way to go so that it doesn’t sound rehearsed and disconnected from the audience.
Buffett, during all of his speeches, never has notes or even a card to look at. Instead, he speaks from experience and personal knowledge and the result is that he is easily one of the most relatable and likable billionaires there is.
4. Be excited about the topic
Lastly, if you’re excited about a topic, it will make your speaking more enthusiastic and relatable. Bringing positivity and excitement (by talking about something you care about) is the easiest way to not only reduce your nervousness but actually improve your speaking.
Buffett, as an example, fostered a love of stocks and investing at the tender age of 11 and whenever he speaks about it, it’s easy to see the passion in his voice.