Public Speaking is Like Juggling
by Naphtali Barsky
(Publishers’ note: we heard Naphtali give a presentation on this topic and asked him to write this article about it. His comparison is unique and interesting.)
Ever since I taught myself to juggle at age eleven, I have had an easy time teaching others, even those who claim they could never juggle. Learning the basic three-ball cascade pattern usually takes very little time.
To be sure, juggling seven torches while riding a unicycle on a tightrope may seem out of the range of most people’s abilities. The main reason is not lack of coordination; it is lack of time.
Building Public Speaking Skills
People who acquire the basics quickly discover that almost any goal is doable as long as they are willing to put in the necessary hours of practice. Public speaking, like juggling, involves building up one’s skills step by step.
Juggling mastery depends more on hard work than on innate coordination. Similarly, beginning public speakers vary in their natural abilities before they progress in developing their skills.
Some people pick up public speaking skills more quickly than others. But almost anyone with a functional voice can learn those skills. A person’s natural strengths and weaknesses are a floor, not a ceiling.
Speaking Improves Public Speaking Skills
The best way to improve juggling skills is by juggling, rather than sitting around thinking about juggling. The best way to improve public speaking skills is by speaking. I didn’t even understand what the three-ball cascade looked like until a while after I’d mastered it. Learning this pattern was a mere matter of conditioning my reflexes to perform a remarkably simple set of steps. Similarly, public speakers improve their public speaking skills by getting into good habits.
Just as juggling has many genres, public speakers eventually specialize in particular areas. Jugglers may spend years learning to keep numerous objects aloft. Some may focus on
mastery of three objects, and others may incorporate balancing and other related feats of coordination into their act. Similarly, public speakers can choose from several venues, such as humorous, motivational, or persuasive speaking.
Public Speaking Builds Character
Juggling builds self-discipline. Developing your public speaking skills to become an impressive speaker builds character. The nature of practicing for hours to reach new heights of excellence is its own reward.
As a juggler and a public speaker, I have long observed the many parallels between these two enterprises. They both involve gradual skill-building, and they both provide internal as well as external rewards. At bottom, they are both paths for helping people attain their dreams by pushing the limits of what they deem possible.