Now when you know that your voice is an instrument, what does that tell you? People come to me and they say, “Well I’ve got a bad voice.” “I am not a good speaker.” “I get worried about this kind of moment.” “I hate meetings.” “I hate presentations” “Can’t do it.” The voice is an instrument. There is no such thing as a bad saxophone. Is there? Because when we hear a great saxophonist, and he is probably somewhere down here, what we know is that they practice a lot. That not only they have talent, but also they have worked, and worked and worked to get a great sound.
Now, if you ever doubt the sound of you voice, let me tell you all you have to do is practice. And when I was worrying about that moment I am going to call my Central Hall of shame because it was, what I remembered was the story of a guy in Ancient Greece called Demosthenes. Now, that’s a bit of a big old name, so we’re going to call him the Greek dude from now on, which actually is also a bit of a big word, so we might just call him Dave, I think.
Now Dave was speaking at the Assembly which is like the O2. We have Simon in the room. It’s like the Brixton Academy of the Ancient Greek world. And he was feeling pretty nervous, he wanted to be an orator. Orators were the rock stars of their day. And so he geared himself up for this big moment at the assembly and you know what? He bombed. They said he was uncouth in his speaking, and that he stammered.
And so the audience jeered at him and they threw stuff. Please don’t do that to me! And he left that stage feeling so downcast when he got a bit of advice from an actor. I’m sure Greek actors were pretty much the same as they are now. And I am sure that acting was a bit like this, but what he said to him is, “You need more expression in your voice. You’re just not giving enough welly, enough energy. And you also need to believe in yourself because the message is good.”
So Demosthenes takes himself back home and he goes for it. This is his rocky moment. He builds himself an underground cellar. He shaves his head, half of his head so that he can’t leave the house for three months and then he practices for three months solid in front of a big shield that is polished like a mirror.
And when he is ready, when he is up there, he goes out. He goes to the sea and he speaks over the waves. So his voice has to boom out over the waves. And then he goes back. He goes back to the Assembly. And he speaks again and he becomes known as one of the greatest orators of his day. So what does that tell you? It tells you about practice. The power of practice.