I was talking yesterday with a friend about my approach to coaching others in public speaking. We agreed that, in whatever we do, it’s most satisfying when we’re engaged in helping others see who they really are.
I absolutely believe that holds in public speaking. While it’s tempting to think that all you have to do is follow certain speaking “rules” in order to be a competent speaker, (and to a certain extent, you do), to truly be a great communicator involves a number of pretty deep things. These include really knowing who you are and being comfortable enough with yourself to allow others to see inside – while also following the rules of public speaking.
But there’s an additional factor, and that’s realizing you might not completely know who you are. And speaking in public is part of your journey to discover the “more” that’s also part of you. There’s a trust involved in letting your intuition take over and guide how you communicate – in real time.
Several years ago I gave a speaking workshop to a group of about eight people who were already experienced public speakers. They all worked in various aspects of the spirituality field, so they were pretty experienced at digging deeply into who they were.
One woman, who came from an academic background, had a powerful message but delivered it so quietly that I wanted to turn up the volume. I handed her a transcript of part of a Jesse Jackson speech, and asked her to read it to us as if she was Jesse Jackson, and to gesture as well as speak. It took a little bit, but she eventually got it. Then I asked her to give a portion of her own talk again, but to keep the energy level where it had been as she was reading.
The result was night and day! Reading Jackson’s words in his cadence and with his energy level had freed her up to be more passionate about her own words. She could feel the difference, and also see the different response she got from us as her audience.
Another attendee, who uses music therapy for healing, spoke in choppy sentences. I gave him a portion of a Dr. Seuss book to read to us. I wanted to get him to use more flow in his speech. As he read Dr. Seuss, something transformational happened. He put the book down, and started talking to us about his work in Dr. Seuss meter and rhymes. He didn’t know he could do that, and I certainly hadn’t taught him to do it. It was part of him he didn’t know about taking over. The effect was magical, and he drew us entirely into his message.
There is so much more to us than appears on the surface, and being open to discovering that “more” while speaking in public is a transformational process that feels special to the audience and to the speaker. It makes for a memorable experience that audience members won’t forget, and will want to repeat by hearing you again.