I can't quite remember when I realised how much I love listening to someone speak well enough about a subject to move me. There's a bit of my brain that gives the credit to West Wing, but realistically, it's probably more closely related to the many years I spent in various churches listening to sermons when I was a kid. That's not to say that I love to listen to sermons - I don't - at least, not for the religious content.
I suppose what I enjoy is being moved, and when you listen to someone who is passionate about their subject speak well about that subject, you can't fail to be moved in some way.
I want to be inspired. I want to learn. I want to feel. I want to care. I want to leave the room a changed person from the one who entered.
A couple of months ago, I downloaded all the available audio podcasts from the TED conference. Ever since, any time I go to the supermarket, I plug in my headphones and listen to a TED talk. I've walked and bought groceries listening to people talk about literally everything under the sun - and above it too, and there hasn't yet been a talk that I've skipped because it was boring. I've had my mind blown while buying broccoli and been inspired while trying not to buy ice-cream. Some of the topics have been things I wouldn't have chosen to listen to had I been on the site and given the choice, but the randomness of the method has opened my mind to things I'd never have thought about otherwise.
It's been fabulous, and I'm not even done with them all yet.
A few weeks ago, I came back from a days work at a client site and I was just exhausted. I flopped on the sofa with my station-bought salad and was idly flicking through the channels when I stumbled across the opening couple of minutes of The Speaker.
I stopped because it was a competition about public speaking specifically involving teenagers, but I have to admit that I was a little bit doubtful about how it would pan out. I wasn't sure that Oratory Idol was a format that could work, but somehow, it did.
It was Stacy (who will forever in my mind be "the gobby one") talking about her life that stopped me from flipping on to a different channel but I think it was too-cool-for-school Haroon's speech that made me put down both my fork and the remote and really pay attention, and from that point on, I was hooked.
I was inspired. I learned. I felt. I cared. It changed me.
It was compelling in a way I didn't expect. I lived and died with the kids as they worked their way through the tasks given to them. There were more than a few occasions where it was so uncomfortable that I couldn't bear it and had to get up and leave the room, and I was more affected than I thought I'd be when some of my early favourites didn't make it to the final.
I've always said that I hate being the centre of attention - and that's true up to a point, in that it depends what kind of attention. Watching The Speaker reminded me how much I've grown to actually enjoy being a Speaker myself, and throughout the series, I actually learned a lot. It's even left me wanting to learn more - to the extent of seriously considering joining a Toastmasters club to get more experience and hone my skills.
I know I'm never going to be Jed Bartlett from The West Wing, or Barack Obama, but I really hope that one day, I'll be able to look back and not only feel, but know that I was able to educate, inspire or move people the way I've been moved by many of the Speakers I've listened to.