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King Adrian’s Public Speaking Parable

October 4, 2012

London Corinthians has a profound impact on people’s lives, but how does it work? For me, the answer is best illustrated by a story.

Many hundreds of years ago, there was a King. The King was a dour, sour-faced man, who never had a good word to say to anybody. For want of a better name, let’s call him King Adrian. King Adrian used to ride through his lands, but wherever he went, his people never came out to greet him, in fact, they scurried away before him. Adrian got increasingly upset.

One day, Adrian returned to court, and he turned to his courtiers in frustration. “Those filthy ingrates, why don’t they cheer and chant for me as they do for other leaders?”. At the time at court, there was a young man, bright, brilliant, and wise beyond his years. For want of a better name, let’s call him George. George turns to King Adrian and says “Sire, I think I know the answer to your problem, but you have do exactly as I say”. Well King Adrian agrees, he says “yeah, well whatever”.  Out of his bag, George pulls a mask and the whole court gasps. The mask is an exact replica of the King’s face, except in one respect – that the mask wears a beaming grin, a face-splitting smile showing off a set of shiny whites that would embarrass a piano. George says to the King “You must wear this mask for a year and a day, everywhere you go”. Despite his protestations the King eventually relents.

To begin with the response was muted. The King was unimpressed, and considered giving up. Then things started to change. It began with peasants collecting at street corners. Then people started to smile as the king passed. Eventually, townsfolk began to laugh and cheer every time they saw him. At the end of the year, when Adrian removed the mask, he discovered that the smile he was wearing on the outside, was reflected in the smile he was wearing on the inside.

All well and good, but what’s the moral of this story? Well, there are several:

  • A little smile goes a long way;
  • Adrian is quite possibly the grumpiest man you could ever hope to meet; and
  • My favourite, which is all about how we learn at London Corinthians.

When we start out with public speaking at toastmasters, some of the things other members tell us to do can feel a little artificial. We get told to stand a different way, use our voices in a different way behave differently in front of an audience. We get told to put on, if you like, a mask for public speaking. It can be an unnerving experience. At this stage, some people may start to get discouraged, it may not feel like the effort is paying dividends, and it may feel like that easy confidence we see in others is beyond us.

Over time, in fact it often takes about a year, the confidence projecting behaviours that we learn to display on the outside, become ingrained confidence projecting behaviours on the inside. The genius of a club like Corinthians is that like King Adrian, our natural behaviours on the inside begin to reflect the mask we have learned to wear. All that to say nothing of the fact that it’s a lot of fun along the way.


 President, London Corinthians 2012-13


Working or living in the LondonVictoria area? Want to know more about becoming a better public speaker? Visit London Corinthians on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursdays @ 7.30pm.

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