Enjoy the special flavour of the unpredictable

There never has been security. No man has ever known what he would meet around the next corner;
if life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavour.

Eleanor Roosevelt.

never_security_web

Harsh words, those, especially for those of us who like to be prepared.

“Never.” … “There never has been security.”

Still, we try to achieve it as much as we can,

prepare for all eventualities,

do our best to avoid the embarrassment of fumbling for an answer, for forgotten words, for a prepared logical flow.

And yet we know, underneath, that what Eleanor Roosevelt said is entirely true.

There will always be the unpredictable.

And we will prepare for that too.

………………….

What about the flavour it brings though?

The flavour of life … the flavour of an unpredictable speaking experience.

I like to think that being a speaker operates on at least 3 levels.

There is me, you, the speaker.

There is what I call the eagle eye – the ability we have to watch ourselves and our audiences from above and evaluate how things are going, in order to adapt.

And then there is the concept that beside the conversation we are having with our audience is another experience, the shared experience of being together in a presentation.

We can leverage that with little moments of quirking an eyebrow at the audience as if to say “See what I did there?”, or less subtly discussing what is actually going on. We can create a shared experience in this level.

If the experience is unexpected, this is where we can really capitalise on that flavour Eleanor mentioned – enjoy the moment together with the audience,

forge a bond of shared experience,

of response to the unexpected

with humour, with pathos or with jointly created action.

So while those un-predictable events can be challenging, especially if we worry too much about them beforehand, or label them failures afterwards,

they can also be the source of some of the most powerful and enjoyable experiences a speaker can have.

The speaker struggle between “performing” and being “authentic”

performing_authentic

I am writing this as the world mourns David Bowie.

Something Bowie said reminded me about the dichotomy that we all face, in public speaking, between “performing” and being “authentic.”

Many of my clients come to me because they are deterred from speaking by their fear of “performing” this thing called public speaking, fear of not adequately meeting some set of criteria, and of losing their self and their real message in that performance. .

Many of you will know how much of a struggle the dichotomy has been for me. I spent many years entering (and winning my fair share) of public speaking competitions. It is a world unto itself, competitive public speaking, bound by rules, and it involves speaking knowing that one is being judged (a nervous beginner’s worst nightmare, and daunting for the old hands as well!).

So for all those years I operated within that world and its rules, doing well, but constantly feeling the weird dislocation of communicating with an audience via a strict set of guidelines.

It has been incredibly liberating to give up the concept of being judged as a performer.

But still the dichotomy remains – authenticity is vital and yet performance has to be factored in. They must still be in balance.

And for me, and for many others like me, there is also the strange “lure” of performance, threatening to pull that balance awry in a different direction.

Two “events” that have crossed my path in the last couple of weeks have really highlighted this “lure” of performance.

The death of David Bowie was one but before that …

You might also be aware of my interest/obsession (!) with Outlanders, the series of books … and with the TV series, how it is being made …

and with the lead actor who is a consummate professional on and off stage.

(The fact that his good looks are highlighted at every opportunity doesn’t hurt either, but it’s not the main source of my interest.!)

The image below is from an Instagram post. He has had to work out to create the build of the character, Jamie. But he is also very involved in charities and one program he runs is a fitness/goal achievement challenge from which the funds go to one of those charities. In the course of this fundraising he has had to endure photo shoots for a cross-fit magazine, to promote this fundraiser.

sam heughan vulnerability

When you finish enjoying what he has achieved in terms of the physique, maybe you can read the text …

and see that possibility – of creating a performance, or a mask, behind which to hide the real you.

Where would you say this lies on the spectrum between authenticity and performing?

The second event, was the demise of David Bowie – a shock to the world. He was an icon of our age. Meant so much to so many people for so many reasons. He strummed our pain. He gave us possibilities outside our squares. He provided sheer entertainment and amazing music. He stimulated our creativity. He gave us solace.

Many of us are now listening to his latest and final recording for the hints he embedded about his attitude to life … and to death.

Even at the end, he was orchestrating his life. In 1976 he told Playboy “I’ve now decided that my death should be very precious. I really want to use it. I’d like my death to be as interesting as my life has been and will be.”

We are now looking back at the latest album, at the quotations, and connecting the dots back from the death of an icon. And in my efforts to do just that I found this quote which I put into a graphic.

bowie_shy

Both of these beautiful, thoughtful, creative professionals, expressing the concept of a separate persona or mask in order to perform or “expose” oneself.

So there it is …

and while I do see performance as a lure, mindful as I am of lingering memories of old experiences, I also find in it support for my theory that

introverts make the best speakers!

And the dichotomy remains!

After lots of experience and deliberation, and now these two events, I have reached this …

that the compromise between performance and being yourself comes, I think, down to two things –

being your best self

and playing the game with your audience.

What do you think?

You might also be interested in:

Public speaking lessons from a quarry makeover

We are incredibly blessed to have an environmental park just 50 metres from our home. I am grateful to old George Swanston, our local Council representative more than twenty years ago, who fought to have it gazetted as such, and not given over to developers. We now have a backdrop of trees from our house and access to beautiful walking tracks and scenery.

At our particular entrance to the park is a disused quarry – huge sandstone cliffs where blocks of stone were removed. It has been shored up, but part of it remains rather unstable and in times of heavy rain, boulders are sometimes dislodged. It is now a beautiful, serene place.

The piece of landscape I focussed on this morning, though, had me thinking …

quarry_ps

This is the wall the park-keepers have created to protect the walking path from falling boulders.

And it reminded me of constructing a speech (possibly because I’m currently putting together a workshop on the subject!)

See the wire netting they have used to make sure the stone wall stays in place?

Sometimes I feel like I am in need of such a cage – something to keep the whole speech together and tight and effective – not allowing ideas to escape out of the structure I want.

We collect such a miscellany of thoughts, and knowledge and experiences and opinions and do our best with them. We sort them and discard those that will not support the message we want for this particular audience. We build them into a structure that will work for this presentation. It will be strong. It will work to make the message flow and shape so that the audience follows it easily without too much awareness of its existence. It will look and feel good to ourselves as we present, giving us confidence in the whole.

And that’s what they have done with these stones in this wall. They collected a huge number, and sorted out the ones that will fit and that are of a similar size so that they can be stacked into a shape. They built them into a structure that will protect the walkers here on the path, without intruding into the flow of their walk or run. And I suspect they are rather proud of their final construction.

And yet …

They had to put the net around it. Was it not built well enough?

Perhaps they did not have a proper dry-stone wall person. Perhaps it is not finished and they intend to replace it or cover it with concrete or such.

The question remains … though I am so happy people are taking care of the park and making it safe.

And yet…

These grey stones are not native to the area – well not in evidence anywhere around. They are imports. The whole structure seems alien.

Did you ever feel that about a speech?

Maybe it didn’t align with your passions. Maybe you were presenting someone else’s material. Maybe you’ve seen a speaker who had found the audience was not as they expected, or the speech just didn’t belong in the event, either subject-wise, or energy-wise.

Still I am grateful.

Returning from my walk, I follow the little side street and in front of me, at the end of the street, is this beautiful tree.

jacaranda

It belongs (though it was planted there).

It has its own natural shape. Nothing constrains it (though it was pruned – many years ago).

It is beautiful.

Is this what it feels to present a speech so that it feels like it belongs, so that it feels natural, unconstrained, and we can feel its beauty?

The speaker’s own energy and authentic passion,

constructed for this audience and their needs and wants and values,

suitable to the event, aligned with its intent and vibe.

I wish you (and me) many more trees … and many more speeches that give as much pleasure and satisfaction.

Q & A – What to say if you don’t know the answer

speaker_Q&A

Many speakers fear and avoid a Q & A.

Why … because they fear a disaster spiraling out of control.

“What if someone asks a question and I don’t know the answer?”

Experienced speakers know, however, that rather than being a disaster, a Q&A is a wonderful opportunity and they prepare to leverage that opportunity.

“But how can you prepare for every question? No-one can know the answer to everything!”

Let’s look, instead, at preparing for the opportunity buried within this seemingly impossible disaster.

First step … If you don’t know the answer, admit it. That is not a disaster, in itself, or in the making.

Admitting to not knowing the answer is a chance to build authenticity.

Audiences are reasonable. They understand that in the avalanche of information available, no one person can know it all.

There is nothing authentic or credible about someone trying to side-step a question with blustering. Much better to tell the truth.

But before you lose your credibility as an expert, have a plan for response to these questions.

1. If it’s possible, know the experts in the room. Throw the question to one of them, and you are providing a resource just as much as if you had given an answer. You have provided an answer. You have created or reinforced a connection with the other expert. And you have positioned yourself within a community of experts.

2. You can also refer the question back to the audience in general. You are building engagement here with your interaction. If it is possible to allow discussion, you can build a sense of community within the audience. If it’s appropriate you can ask for opinions, stories and examples as well as facts.

3. Finally, saying “No comment” just doesn’t work. You appear either to be completely ignorant and helpless on the subject, or worse still, trying to hide something. If there is no way to answer in the moment, commit to getting the answer to the questioner as soon as possible – to either giving them good sources/resources at the end of your presentation or to communicating an answer in coming days. If you cannot answer because it is not appropriate or you are not at liberty to answer, explain why. Again, audiences are generally reasonable and understanding.
This is also providing an opportunity to reinforce your respect for your audience and its members. Answering with integrity and an honest effort to help, you are showing respect for the person asking the question and for the question itself, no matter how awful the question or the motives of the questioner.

That respect is all part of the process of building and maintaining your credibility and your authenticity. And Q&A has given you the opportunity to contribute more to that process. Rather than being a disaster waiting to happen, Q&A becomes a valuable opportunity.

Knock down the wall between you and your audience in public speaking

The first piece of public speaking that I can remember doing was in about the second year of school. Every year of school, we learned several pieces of poetry by rote, wrote them in our best handwriting in our poetry books and recited them together each morning. I loved that poetry – loved the writing, the sound of the words and the way they fitted together in a new form of speaking. But in the second year of school, it was decided that each person in the class would recite the poem to the whole group. We were instructed to stand out the front, in the middle, with our hands clasped together with the finger tips of each hand nestled against the fingers of the other – “cupped” I think, is the word for it.

I don’t remember being nervous, but remember standing there. I don’t remember what the teacher may have said was good about my presentation, but in perverse and fairly normal human style, I have never forgotten being told that I had swayed while I spoke.

And that was the beginning of years of fear of public speaking. Obviously perfection was expected here and obviously, too, my body could not be trusted to be perfect without my strict supervision. By Year seven, the public speaking exercises had graduated to coming to the door of the classroom, knocking and asking “Are you Nelly Reddy?” That was too much! I would discover a sudden need to go to the bathroom –and stay there. It got to the stage where the teacher asked my mother if I was having some sort of health issue!

My love of language and an ability to use it reasonably well meant I built a successful career in public speaking at high school, but always at the expense of suffering horribly from nerves. There was still the expectation of a performance, and the degree of perfection against a set of criteria was always forefront in every experience.

I have worked hard over the intervening years to overcome the fear, because despite it all, I still love public speaking. And one of the best feelings these days is the feeling of being able to stand confidently on a stage and have a conversation with the audience. Another best feeling is knowing that that is the common trend in public speaking today as well. I watch “Show and Tell” in primary school and watch as the teachers make each child feel comfortable, supported, encouraged and never judged. I read about public speaking and see the growing number of people discussing this need to be perfect and what a burden it is, and how unnecessary.

The concept I love most is the idea of the performance/perfectionism as placing a wall between yourself as a speaker and your audience. Perhaps it should be refereed to as a screen, in the way that a screen holds a movie or video separate from its audience.

And of course the antidote is to break down the wall, take yourself out of the screen and see yourself as having a conversation with your audience. You can be so much more authentic as you be yourself in conversation rather than a performing persona. You can be so much more engaging as you interact, in conversation, with your audience. And as a speaking consultant I can now encourage my clients to be themselves – their best selves, mind you, but still their authentic selves.

© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication. please do. but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years’ experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com

Public Speaking tips – the value of eye contact

Making eye contact with the audience is vital in projecting confidence and authenticity. 

Looking people in the eye in any form of face to face contact means you are not afraid of being caught out. 

You are not lying or deceiving. You have confidence in your message. You are being sincere. 

So use it as much as you can in your public speaking, to have people connect, believe and follow. 

Create a deep connection with your audience – be authentic

Being your authentic self as a speaker is a vital tool in creating a connection with your audience. They need to be able to identify with you as a person who is just like them. They need to know that you are sincere and believe in your material. They need, above all, to know that you can be trusted. And that is not going to happen if they have the slightest suspicion that you are not being true to yourself and your communication with them.

This is not always easy. Being a speaker, establishing a connection with your audience, you need to find a balance between being authentic on one hand, and on the other, speaking in a language and a tone and with content that resonates with your audience. It is possible, but something that can easily be destroyed, sometimes with the best of intentions. Here are six ways you can maintain your authenticity and your connection with your audience.

1. Be yourself. It is tempting, seeing someone else who is successful, and admired, to want to copy their style, their energy and even their content. After all, what worked for them should work for you. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t! You cannot be yourself if you are being someone else. Audiences want more than a performance of someone else’s material. And so do you! The dissonance between you and the persona you are trying to create will make it awkward for you and will alert the audience, no matter how hard or well you perform. If you must copy, copy only those things that fit with your own natural, personal style.

2. Choose your support material wisely. Stories are a powerful way to support your material and make your points when you speak. They create an unconscious deep resonance with your audience that makes persuasion so much easier. Build authenticity into this process by using your own stories. Use stories about yourself or about your clients. Choose stories that you are passionate about. Tell them all from your own perspective (so long as they support the point you are making) and you will have the real you, making the point, with so much more power.

Humour is another strong speaking support. It builds connections on its own. If the audience is entertained, they will stay for the ride far more readily than if they are bored. Obviously the humour has to be chosen so that it supports your case, and does not fall flat or, worse still, insult. And the best humour to cover all those bases is humour about you. And in the same way that you used stories, you will inject your own personality and consideration for your audience into the humour and, in doing so, build authenticity.

3. Speak with passion. Feel your passion for your subject, and for communicating it, and ramp up the energy. If you allow this passion and energy to get through, you speak with confidence. Confidence communicates that passion, the fact that you know your content, and that you are confident to share it – the very basis of authenticity. An audience is far more likely to engage with someone who knows and cares what they are talking about and is confident that it will be useful and worth sharing.

There is a saying that “enthusiasm is contagious.” And it is so true. If you are enthusiastic about your subject then your audience likely will be too. It is very difficult on the other hand to be enthusiastic about material that is not your own. Before long the mismatch between your own beliefs and enthusiasms and the material you are presenting will show. It might not be obvious, but there will be a feeling of discomfort for you and for the audience, and the reality of your authenticity will be in question.

4. Create alignment. Your enthusiasm and your belief in your material should be enough in themselves. But it is worth remembering that everything that you do when you speak must be in alignment. Everything you do, everything you say, every movement you make must support everything else and they all should work together to support the point you are making, your enthusiasm and your passion. Any fidgeting or body language expressing nerves, for example, will undermine the image of confidence. Speaking in a monotone will destroy the feeling of passionate energy … and so on. It may be that you need some coaching to make sure that how you look, how you speak and how you move are congruent, because if they aren’t you undermine your authenticity.

5. Be aware of your audience. You are having a conversation with your audience. The conversation doesn’t have to be verbal on their part. But it will exist, nevertheless. And, to be authentic, any conversation has to be relevant, and interesting and appropriate, to the parties involved, or it will close down. So you will need to be aware of what is going to be relevant, interesting and appropriate to this particular audience, just as you would be in any conversation. Be aware of who they are. Be aware of how they respond to you, right from the moment you stand to speak. Be aware of whether your earlier research into them and their likely needs, wants and reaction has been successful and that what you have planned will make your presentation relevant to them. You need to adjust at least your attitude and presentation style and possibly your content and its order of presentation to how they respond to you. If this is to be a successful, connecting conversation, then you need to make it an authentic one.

6. Know yourself. Do the work to know who the authentic you really is, what your authentic speaking style really is. A lot of this will come from practice, from being confident enough to engage fully with an audience. I means being yourself, not trying to be perfect, but focussing, instead, on giving generously to your audience, and interacting with them. When you can try that style of presenting, you can find out just what works best for you, what an audience responds to and what really creates a connection. Then you can polish and re-use it in other presentations.

Let the real you shine through in your speeches and presentations, and be confident and assured that your audience will relate, connect and respond.

© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication, please do, but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian, writer, award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk, a certified World Class Speaking coach, and has had 30 years’ experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, you could be well on the way to being admired, rehired as a speaker, with the 30 speaking tips. Click here for 30 speaking tips for FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com

Confidence + energy + enthusiasm = passion = engagement

ps_tip_passion

So what is this elusive thing called “passion” in public speaking?

It’s an overused word, “passion”, and yet it is an attractive concept – a person who is passionate.

Well …

a passionate person is enthusiastic.

There is a saying that “enthusiasm is contagious.” And it is so true.

If you are enthusiastic about your subject then your audience will be too.

Behave this way and you create the impression that the subject is worth talking about, worth learning and worth sharing.

And if it is worth talking about, worth learning and worth sharing, then your audience will be engaged, doing just that – learning and remembering and repeating what you shared.

A passionate person is confident in their enthusiasm.
 
If you speak with confidence, you give the impression of being authentic and sincere.

Confidence gives the impression that you know your content, and that you are confident to share it.

An audience is far more likely to engage with someone who knows what they are talking about and is confident that it will be useful and worth sharing.

A passionate person shares their passion with energy.
 
Speaking with energy shows your passion for the subject and for your opportunity to share that passion and the information.

Energy presents itself at different levels, though.

It does not mean presenting for the whole time with high energy.

You will need to go into the speech at the energy level of the audience or you will seem strange, seem to be outside their circle, their experience.

You can build the energy, or tone it down to suit.

Try to avoid speaking quickly and excitedly the whole time. It will get boring and will be wasted just as much as speaking in a monotone will.

Keep the power of that passion by using pauses, by using deliberately slow speech and by creating down time. They work just as powerfully as speaking quickly and with excitement.
 
Combine those three elements of enthusiasm, confidence and energy and you have passion, and passion creates engagement with our audiences.

© Bronwyn Ritchie If you want to include this article in your publication. please do. but please include the following information with it:
Bronwyn Ritchie is a professional librarian. writer. award-winning speaker and trainer. She is a certified corporate trainer and speech contest judge with POWERtalk . a certified World Class Speaking coach. and has had 30 years experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking. In just 6 months time, do you want to be 3 times the speaker you are now? Click here for 30 speaking tips FREE. Join now or go to http://www.30speakingtips.com 

What does your audience see when you speak?

mask

Public speaking is all about getting a message across … speaking.

OK, that being said, let’s step back and away from that for a moment and think about it differently. Think about it as you would a television show or movie with the sound off. What do you see? What does your audience see when you are speaking (with the sound off)?

Look at your clothes. What do they say about you? Yes I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do. Everyone does. Audiences do. So what do your clothes say about you? Is that the message you wanted them to convey? The message the audience gets from your clothes needs to support the impact you want to make.

On the other hand, are your clothes making their own statement? Do they stand out so much that they are more interesting than your words or message?

What the audience sees needs to reinforce your message and both need to work together to create the impact you decided you wanted. You did choose an impact, didn’t you? You didn’t want to just leave it to chance, did you?

So when you are rehearsing and preparing your speech or presentation by visualising the whole process being a success … include in the picture what you will look like. Imagine what the audience response is to what you look like. Run a mind movie of what you look like when you walk onto the stage or to the front of the room. What are they expecting to be in the book that is you when they see its cover? What are they thinking. Look into their minds. Read their faces. Is that what you wanted? If it’s not, then adapt the picture accordingly. Change the mind movie until you know that the way you look is going to get the response from the audience that you want. Then you will be thoroughly prepared to create the impact of your choice.

Speaking: How To Communicate Your Unique Truth When Speaking

Be authentic. Be transparent. Be real. Wherever you’re speaking, you know this is what your listener is craving. Everybody’s fed up with deceit and phoniness. They want to hear the truth, and they want to believe what you’re saying.

On the surface, this seems simple enough. Like you just leave out any lies – right? Actually, there’s more to it that. When you want to thoroughly communicate your truth to an audience, there’s one main thing you need to remember: be yourself.

Be The Real You
People crave connection. When they listen to you, they want to feel like you’re talking directly to them. They want to feel like you know them. And the only way they’re going to feel like that is if you come across as the real you. Like what you see is what you get.

We’ve all heard people proclaiming their own authenticity, but we feel like we really have no idea who they are. So it’s not about telling people how authentic you are. It’s about showing them.

And it’s not about disclosing all your personal, private information. In fact, that can backfire on your purpose to engage people. Because unless you’re performing a one-woman show, nobody’s that interested in you. Hope that doesn’t burst your bubble, but it’s true.

They came to hear the information you have to offer. But they want to hear it from somebody they feel like they know. Someone they can trust. Somebody real.

The Secret: Relax
The best way to let them see the authentic you is to relax when you’re speaking. Whether you’re talking from the stage, speaking on a teleseminar, or presenting to your MasterMind group, people will connect with your message when you’re relaxed in your delivery. Being relaxed is what allows you to use your own language, to be who you really are everyday. And that’s what your audience wants.

So do what you need to do to help yourself relax when you’re speaking. Use a rapid-change tool like EFT tapping to eliminate whatever has you tense. And then go be your authentic self for your audience. You’ll be amazed at how they’ll connect with you and your message.

Now you know the secret to truly being authentic when you’re speaking in public. When you want to thoroughly communicate your truth to an audience, any audience, the one thing you must do is to completely be yourself.

And to help you relax when you’re speaking, claim your free Stress-Free Speaking Starter Kit when you go to http://SpeakingMadeFearless.com.

Just fill in your name and best email to get your free Stress-Free Speaking Guide, Checklist, and Fearless Speaking Audio recording.

From Janet Hilts, stress-free speaking coach, specializing in helping motivated people like you get comfortable speaking in any setting.

Find out more at http://www.SpeakingMadeFearless.com.