Interview with World-Renowned Author and Speaker Jim Stovall
jim-stovallJim Stovall has been a national champion Olympic weightlifter, the President of the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network, and a highly sought-after author and platform speaker. He is the author of the best-selling book, The Ultimate Gift, which is now a major motion picture.

For his work in making television accessible to our nation’s 13 million blind and visually impaired people, The President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity selected Jim Stovall as the Entrepreneur of the Year. He was also chosen as the International Humanitarian of the Year, joining Jimmy Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Mother Teresa as recipients of this honor.

We were lucky enough to have a minute of Jim's time to chat about his new book The Art of Presentation: Your Competitive Edge, which is due for release in January.

Hi Jim, thanks so much for stopping by Activia's Expert Insights section. Could you tell us a little bit more about yourself? 

As a young man, my greatest ambition was to be a professional football player in the NFL. I had the size and speed to accomplish this, but in a routine physical exam to play another season of football one year, I was diagnosed with a condition that would cause me to lose my sight. I immediately shifted my goals and finished my athletic career as a National Champion Olympic Weightlifter.

Today, as a blind person, I run the Emmy Award-winning Narrative Television Network which makes movies and TV accessible for millions of blind people. I have written over 30 books, and seven of them have been made into movies or are in production at this time. I speak at arena events around the world and write a weekly syndicated column.

You have had a long and varied career, how did you find yourself where you are today? 

After losing my sight, I started the Narrative Television Network to help other blind people. In order to promote the network, I began doing public speaking which expanded into books, movies, and the other work we do.

When did you realise you could help others with their public speaking skills?

As a member of the National Speakers Association, I came in contact with a lot of aspiring speakers and presenters. I found that I could share lessons I had learned through trial and error, therefore helping others to avoid many challenges and obstacles that exist.

Your new book, The Art of Presentation: Your Competitive Edge, is due for release in January - could you tell us a bit more about it? 

The Art of Presentation is the second book I have co-authored with eminent scholar Dr. Ray Hull.  This title follows up on our first collaboration The Art of Communication and deals with the challenge of presenting our messages, ideas, and motivations to others here in the 21st century.  It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how valid your mission may be if you can’t present it to the world.

Why is it important for everyone to develop their public speaking skills to some extent?

We all succeed based on our ability to motivate and implement, but none of us succeed on our own. We must build a team, and if your team is going to be successful, you have to be able to communicate your ideas and the motivation that goes with them.

Public speaking is a huge phobia for many people. What are some simple techniques to help overcome this fear?

As a blind person myself, I visualize speaking to one person in the front of the audience or arena.  This makes it much more of a conversation than a speech. I have shared this with sighted speakers who tell me they can find a friendly face in the first few rows and focus on them. It is also very helpful to have the first two or three minutes of your presentation memorized so you can relax a bit before you get into the more extemporaneous parts of the presentation.

the-art-of-presentationIn your book, you can learn about ‘the art of using a microphone’. This isn’t something that is usually focused on – but why is it so important? 

Using a microphone and the other technical tools of the speaking profession makes your presentation work. If people cannot hear you well, clearly see your visual aids, or feel comfortable in the room where they are seated, your message will be lost, and your presentation will fail.

How much of an impact does body language have when you are giving a presentation? 

Body language is very important, and as a blind person myself, I’ve had to learn techniques from acting and speaking coaches. Experts tell us that your facial expressions and body language may say more to your audience than the words you use.

Do you think having good presentation skills enables you to become confident when communicating one to one? 

Having great communication skills helps not only when you’re speaking to thousands of people but when you’re talking one-on-one as well. All communication is really one-on-one communication.  Successful speakers make each member of their audience feel as if they’re the only person in the room hearing the message.

Are there any influential public speakers that you particularly admire?

When I began as a professional speaker, I learned a lot from Zig Ziglar, Dr. Denis Waitley, Dr. Robert Schuller, and other legends in the business that I was privileged to share the stage with.  Today, I continue to learn from the work of my colleagues such as Les Brown, Tony Robbins, and John Maxwell.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I believe that whether you are a professional speaker or you are someone who works in leadership, management, or sales, we are all destined to succeed or fail based upon how well we can present.

Jim's book, The Art of Presentation: Your Competitive Edge, comes out on the 17th January 2017, and if you'd like to pre-order a copy, you can do so on Amazon. If you'd like to say hello to Jim you can find him on Twitter at @Stovallauthor.