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Kit Pang is a communication expert, professional speaker and the founder of BostonSpeaks, one of Boston’s leading professional development organizations providing training in communication and public speaking. As a speaker and seminar leader, Kit is on a mission to help individuals become exceptional speakers and communicators. Kit’s seminars and talks have been credited as super fun, engaging, soul-searching and insightful. His happy clients include individuals from organizations such as Dell, Delta, RE/MAX, Harvard or MIT.
Zoe Dobuler: What’s your background, and how did you find your way to BostonSpeaks?
Kit Pang: If I wrote an autobiography, I think I would title it From Introvert to Extrovert. When I was growing up, in classrooms and everything, I would be afraid to raise my hand and speak up, even with a group of friends. But one day in college I entered this public speaking competition — and yes, it was for the money — and I practiced so much, and on stage I felt so in the zone. And because of that experience, I wanted to experience it again. So, that’s when I, kind of selfishly, started to want to improve my public speaking skills. It was really because I knew it would help me become a better leader.
I actually used to actually be a hip hop street performer — I did it for about 12 years in downtown Boston. I used to dance professionally, and as my dance career was slowing down, I knew I had to do this public speaking thing because it was always in the back of my mind. I would find an empty space wherever I could — co-working spaces, community places — and I would host workshops on public speaking and communication skills maybe twice a week. And from then, organizing events became easy for me. And when I started, I felt like I wanted more business help, so that’s how I came up with BostonSpeaks Series — a series that brings people together to gain new insights and build new relationships, since that’s what I felt like I needed.
ZD: How would you distill the mission of BostonSpeaks?
KP: Boston Speaks offers public speaking, presentation, and communication skills training. And, our BostonSpeaks Series is basically a talk series for the entrepreneurial and business communities to come together to improve our communication and leadership, and continue our professional growth.
ZD: It was interesting what you said about public speaking making you a better leader. Now that so much of what we do is online, public speaking sometimes is viewed as not necessarily a 21st skill even though it really is, especially in the startup community. Can you elaborate on that a bit more?
KP: Someone asked Warren Buffett what one skill people should learn if they wanted to be more successful. And he said that improving your public speaking skills increases your value by 50%, because rather than it being a liability, it could be an asset every single time you open your mouth. And especially for people who are pitching, it’s all about, at the end of the day, how to influence other human beings — it’s the person who knows how to get their idea across, whether on social media, on video, or in person — at the end of the day they have the most potential to be influential.
ZD: If you had to distill down two or three of your most important tips for public speaking to share, what would they be?
KP: When it comes to speaking, it’s not all about being clear and articulate, it’s about being memorable. You can be as clear and articulate as you want, but if people don’t remember what you said, it doesn’t matter how clear you are. So it’s being more memorable.
Second thing is that people don’t care about how much you know until they know about how much you care. And so, speaking in our society is more like a competition style — you can win a lot of money from a pitch on Shark Tank, or being the best speaker, or being a professional speaker — but the best speakers and communicators are actually the best listeners first. So, it’s all about listening.
Third, if you want to get better at public speaking, public speaking is a verb, you have to take action.
ZD: Something I appreciate about BostonSpeaks events is the very inclusive atmosphere. I felt very empowered to ask questions of the panelists, and the rest of the audience was very supportive of one another. It reminds me of what you just mentioned about listening, and I’m curious if that’s something you consciously work to foster at your events.
KP: I’m glad you felt that way! One of the most important things — when I host events, I think about it like getting into an Uber: You need to feel comfortable first before anything else. If people aren’t making you feel comfortable, that’s when people don’t know how to speak up, because they don’t feel comfortable. It’s not their communication skills, it’s do they feel comfortable first. That’s why it’s so important.
ZD: Your events and workshops are geared toward entrepreneurs, but you’re also an entrepreneur yourself, founding and running BostonSpeaks. What has your experience been like as an entrepreneur in Boston?
KP: Being an entrepreneur is like being a lion. There’s no ceremony for the lion to be king of the jungle. The lion isn’t the heaviest animal in the jungle, it’s not the largest, it’s not the most beautiful, it’s not the smartest, or tallest. So, what makes the lion king of the jungle? The lion has a different attitude that makes other animals respect him. And so being an entrepreneur is like being a lion: Sometimes you just have to embody an attitude or quality that you have confidence and you can do it. Because if a lion were to see an elephant, who is bigger, the lion will think, “I can beat this elephant.” But if the elephant saw the lion, they might think, “Oh the lion is going to chase me down.” So, as an entrepreneur you just have to have that mindset, and be able to tackle whatever comes your way.
ZD: Do you think there’s anything in particular about Boston’s innovation ecosystem that’s influenced your path?
KP: The fact that there are things like HubWeek is amazing, because it’s creating opportunities for people to see what’s out there that they don’t know about. Because sometimes you can’t even know what you don’t know. There are so many opportunities in Boston to show people what is out there, what can be useful, which I really appreciate.
This Change Maker interview was originally published June 2019 on the HubWeek blog.
The HubWeek Change Maker series showcases the most innovative minds in art, science, and technology making an impact in Boston and around the world. Know a change maker you think should be interviewed for this series? Nominate them here.