The other day, I was watching a TED talk by a French speaker. He was speaking English, but with a heavy French accent. At times, I could only understand a word he'd used once I had heard the complete sentence. Now, not everyone can speak perfect English (certainly not me), but an accent like this can make it really hard to follow what you're talking about. We've had that discussion with some of our TEDxStuttgart speakers who often would like to speak in English, hoping to reach more people that way, even though their English wasn't that good.
TED is known to only upload the talks that they consider good, even skipping some from their own conferences. So why did they decide to publish this one?
Listening to the talk a little longer, it became clear that the speaker's English wasn't actually that bad; it was really only his accent. On the few occasions where he had to pause, he wasn't grasping for the right words, he just had to remember how to continue.
What really makes all the difference, I think, is his passion for his topic. At every moment it is clear that this is his topic and that he is on a mission to explain it to the audience and to convince them of its importance. And it works. Listening to him for a while, you get used to the accent and start understanding him better. And then you get swept away by his passion and enthusiasm.
I'm not saying that it doesn't matter how well you can understand someone, but passion for a topic and authenticity of a speaker can make all the difference and help overcome minor issues in the performance.
The talk in question is by Yves Morieux, titled "How too many rules at work keep you from getting things done". It's embedded below. Please watch it and tell me if you agree.
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