Mystical union between a speaker and audience

Punchy, quality content must be a taken for any speech of merit but it is in the delivery that the true mettle of the speech will be proven.

Speaking Clubs offer regular speaking practice  and this will develop lectern confidence.  If you  couple this with learned techniques, like the pause, rhythm and colour in the voice to emphasis your message you will become a speaker of some competence.

I think the difference between a competent speaker and a memorable one is the individual who creates, what can only be termed as, a mystical union between him/her self and the audience.

This charismatic difference is found in a speaker who is authentic, completely warts and all true to his/her self.  Sometimes it needs a bit of coaching to push past our ego that wants to be seen as the dynamo at the lectern. It takes courage to accept the fact that you aren’t perfect. But when you are  unafraid to step into your authentic signature style – the audience will recognise the integrity of your language, posture and intent. They will reward you  with their responsive energy and you the speaker will experience the joy of  holding an audience in the palm of your hand.

Pet peeves. Speakers who do not run to time, complacent speakers who think they can wing it or use  jargon – so elitist.  Speakers who shy away from using a microphone,  read from their notes with no eye contact, But my all time head banging irritation is the rising inflection. No ladies and gentlemen it is not nerves that makes the voice squeak  it is a habit which is a barrier to the effectiveness of your communication. While the audience is still hanging with the question mark tremor at the end of your sentence that’s all they hear. It’s a habit a silly habit, record and listen to it and make an effort to quit it.

Here ends today’s lesson folks!

 My book ‘Finding Your Voice – Ten steps to successful public speaking’ in 2005. encapsulated  four decades of my speaking, training/coaching, speaker management and evaluation passion. Promoted by the publisher Lothian  as the definitive self-help guide to public speaking.

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Rehearsing a Speech for Success

Winston Churchill 1941
Winston Churchill 1941

Winston Churchill’s war time speeches inspired a nation to overcome what appeared to be insurmountable odds. But few knew that  Churchill suffered from a speech impediment, he had trouble with the letter ‘s’ which he pronounced as ‘sh.’ After consulting the finest specialist of the day he was advised that there was nothing clinically wrong with him and that all that was needed was ‘perseverance and practice.’  Which he did.  It is documented that he spent up to eight hours rehearsing a speech.

When I first started speaking in public I rehearsed endlessly.  It  became a repetitious mind numbing recitation. I thought of it as a necessary exercise to safeguard to myself from the effects of stage fright which froze my brain and tightened my breathing. I determined that if I mastered the rhythm and flow, the pace, the pause, the open stance of body image and practiced putting the oomph into the delivery then no matter what amount of flight or fight adrenalin my system pumped into my body, I too like Winston would over come and let people see the real lectern me.

It took years before I realised that beyond the first few fresh run-throughs my endless rehearsals were simply reinforcing my fears. What were my feelings and thoughts as I rehearsed over and over? My thorough and diligent practice focused on stage fright, being terrified at the lectern and the humiliation of being swamped by nerves.

When you rehearse with an underlying structure of fear that is what you will create at the lectern. You’re telling your subconscious that you expect to forget your words, to have a dry mouth, to shake, to have stomach churns, to increase your heart beat and tighten your breathing.  Grinding  your fears so resolutely into your psyche that you may even emotionally throw the ‘towel in’ halfway through an oration.

Stage fright is a constant for some people, it is for me. It’s a taken. You acknowledge it and allow it to be, knowing that the flight and fright syndrome will always power you. When you don’t fight it – it loses its fearful intensity.

My enlightened rule of thumb for rehearsing was stumbled upon by accident when I was driving to take part in yet another speech contest.  I was sick with nerves.  I stopped the car and  there on the side of the road I decided that if I could not have fun at the lectern then public speaking was not for me.   What is the saying – when you need it the teacher will appear? I remembered vaguely an article on the power of visualisation and the rest is history. Oh and the bonus was I started to win speech contests! Now this is what I teach others about rehearsing a speech –

Always set your intention, before you speak out loud your speech, to visualise yourself at a lectern, you are smiling, the audience is returning that joyful energy twofold, intent on your words, connecting with you at an authentic level. Run through the speech a few times until the words flow organically, replacing any trip-up words or phrases with your language that is comfortable to you.

On the day, just  before you give your speech take a quiet moment – acknowledge your fears tell them its okay, then visualise an image of yourself walking to the platform, you are looking relaxed, you see yourself at the lectern and smile. As you speak you have sense a knowing that you are truly connecting with your audience and they are loving it. Hear the applause, you are having feeling good, receiving the affirmation with delight.

Then go sock it to them.

Left brain Right brain

Neuroscientists found that when they dumbed down the analytical side of the left-brain hemisphere – the right brain, which provides us with insight or intuitive responses, was clearer sharper and demonstrated enhanced creativity and innovation.

It seems that simple steps like brushing your teeth with your weak hand, travelling a new and different route home or eating foods that you have never tried before will stimulate and improve our overall brain development.

But can we improve our insightful  thinking (what I would call creative intuition) without an attendant neuroscientist zapping half of our brain with electrical impulses to temporarily still our left-brain’s predictive course of thinking?

Can we grow our well-spring of creativity?

When I write, I’m single-minded, totally focused, in the zone. If I was in an MRI scanner I’m sure it could be seen that both sides of my brain would be contributing.

But the most valuable moments of creativity for me frequently occur after  I have had time out.  After I meditate, take a walk along the beach focusing on the ocean, reflect on a good movie, or take an adventure break by going somewhere new.  Seeing things as though I was seeing them for the first time. The light bulb moments come when my brain is not busy with the grey chatter of the day or  my  treadmill thinking. They come when  my neurons are having a break from firing along their well trod pathways.

For a few years now I have deliberately practiced developing my intuitive ability. At first I found it hard not to indulge the analytical side as it could and still can be extremely persuasive in the case it presents.   But over time and many personal development courses I have found ways to disengage the finger wagging left brain and increase the  ‘yeh baby’  creative moments.

Inner ChildThis is where this picture on the left plays its part.  Meet little Me, aged four’ish.  My inner child.  I see her shy but triumphant smile as she tries to ride her older sister’s bike.  I identify with her trusting quality of innocence; she simply does not recognise that she is not big enough to fully reach the peddles  to make the wheels turn. She is in the moment of loving being able to ride the bike unconcerned that the bike will remain stationary.

My inner child image is my express route to my intuition. I visualise  her proudly sitting on her two sizes too large tricycle and this  curbs  my busy left-brain. In this quiet well of connection I set my intention to receive whatever guidance  I need, may be its a plot snag or a character’s flaws. As I continue to focus on this specific image of my inner child I find I experience once again  her  moment of elation and feel her joyful innocence. It creates the same mind flora as  the aftermath of time out but with more purpose. I find my intuition gives up guidance and answers like slices of golden toast in a pop-up toaster.

A mental image does not have to be a picture of you as a young child that is just my way of leaving the wallpaper behind and soaring to different places. For you it could be something from nature, a loved pet or any  image that allows you to identify with a joyful experience and importantly captures that feeling of innocence – seeing things as though you are seeing them for the first time. 

It is a simple technique but so effective. Similar to developing any part of our muscular system it requires regular practice to access it at will and determination to trust what you receive.

Try it I think you will be amazed.

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