How do you turn a journalist into a public speaker performing to sold-out audiences in one month?

This Saturday morning was pretty special at my local Toastmasters club, where we help people improve their public speaking and leadership skills.

My club held a meeting at Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper.

Jaakko Lyytinen and Riikka Haikarainen in action.

Jaakko Lyytinen and Riikka Haikarainen in action on December 1, 2018.

The highlight of the day was a talk by two award-winning and super-innovative journalists, Jaakko Lyytinen and Riikka Haikarainen, who created the Musta laatikko (Black Box) public speaking performance at the Finnish National Theater.

Musta laatikko is a performance where about ten Helsingin Sanomat journalists each give a 10-15 minute talk about one of their news stories before a live audience. You can think about it as something similar to TED talks, yet something quite different and unique.

Musta laatikko has been running for almost three years at the Finnish National Theater and it’s already been seen by a whopping 18,000 people. About 100 Helsingin Sanomat journalists have spoken there and this year the performance was awarded as the Best Journalistic Act of the Year in Finland.

Here are some takeaways from the yesterday’s talk by Jaakko and Riikka:

  1. Content is king. Focus on the delivery of your speech only when your content is in shipshape.
  2. The best speeches have been given by those humble enough to take the coaching that was offered. Those who thought they already knew all the tricks of the trade tended to perform worse.
  3. The best speakers still continue to spend more time training than the rest of the pack.
  4. For the Musta laatikko speakers, one of the best experiences has been the peer support and development of their speeches in a safe and encouraging environment (anyone recognize the Toastmasters ethos here 🙂 )
  5. The journalists have very much enjoyed the chance to face and overcome their fear of public speaking. For a writing journalist, public speaking doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

A bonus tip: if you have an exceptionally innovative idea, the first thing to do is NOT to tell your boss. They’ll most likely kill it. Instead, first develop your idea further with a couple of trusted colleagues. Then present an irresistible case to management and they’ll buy the idea.

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