Thursday Thoughts…

Why imitate and replicate when you can CREATE.

I see and hear people all the time complaining or envying people who are great speakers. People wish for Steve Job’s gravitas or Margaret Thatcher’s intensity. They want Nelson Mandela’s stoic and methodical speaking ability. It is always nice to want to emulate someone and be like them; the problem is that you are not Jobs, you are not Robbins and you are not Mandela. You have innate and hidden abilities within you. Which require just as much work, to perfect and master. Those examples above didn’t just wake up and have ‘it’. Sure they must have had aspirations and idols that they wanted to model themselves on. But they didn’t abandon their strengths and abilities in order to imitate other people.

Ever see the tonnes of Elvis impersonators on TV and in places like Vegas…? Have you ever looked at them and been convinced they are perfect by comparison to ‘The King’? No, no you haven’t. There is one Elvis Presley, many people try to be him, but no one ever will. Just like there’s only one YOU. That’s something no one else has.

I pause a lot when I speak. It started as a simple sip of water when presenting. Because I was young, nervous and would machine gun off my sentences in an attempt to finish as quickly as possible and get off the stage. The Pause was a tactical moment in which I could sip some water (helping my cotton mouth), help compose myself and give my brain the time to compute the next leg of my presentation. Over the years, the value of that pause has changed somewhat. I don’t pause because my mouth is like the Sahara anymore. It is to have an impact on the audience. It is to let an audience think about something important. It is a device in which I can use a story or an image to illicit a moment of reflection amongst the audience. Of course I still like a sip of water when presenting though!

“Well timed silence hath more eloquence than speech” – Martin Fraquhar Tupper

The more you practice and the more you learn, the more you will see what is unique to you. Everyone gets nervous and has worries when speaking publicly. My greatest weapon is the pause, and that was born out of a remedy for a dry mouth. What might be a coping mechanism now when presenting, might be your own tailored style just waiting to be nurtured and moulded into something good and powerful in the future.

I will finish by saying, not all of my quirks have been beneficial. I used to have a jittery leg that I would rock when standing to present. It was distracting and would draw the audience away from my presentation. So be mindful, not all peculiarities can be made into a force for good. Most have to be stamped out!

Look up to the Titans in your profession and seek to emulate their positive attributes, as Speakers and as role models. Do not abandon your positive attributes while seeking to copy others. Take stock of what you possess, not what you desire to possess.

 

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Don’t Build Your House on Sand

The Simple Foundations of Building Your Style

As the advisory title states, building something on unprepared or shifting ground is only going to cause problems down the line. To that end, I wanted to impart some basic but altogether important pointers. That way, you’ll be setting yourself up for steady and untroubled progress.

You want to see these foundations as a solid ‘core’ to your speaking style. No matter, if you are speaking to inform, persuade or entertain. Picture the Leaning Tower of Pisa for example, at the time it was an incredible feat of engineering and design. Executed with perfection. What was missing, was an all important foundation. Nothing to compliment and support the structure’s impressive nature. Whether you ignore the principle of the foundation or the building without paying the correct attention to either one will bring you nothing but bad news.

So picture your blocks, see them as the consistent structure on which you should always be using when crafting and delivering your project. Your project will sit on top of your foundations and bring you all the respect and compliments. However, you will know in your heart that your foundations are what made it possible.

Brevity, Clarity and Relevance.

Although a combination of pointers, I feel that all three are inseparable. Your target to aim for at all times is the perfect combination of all three. Always ask yourself if something is relevant. If it isn’t, cut it out. That explains brevity too!

Brevity is the art of getting to the end of your journey in the least possible words. I see people read word for word off of their presentation slide. Two things. Firstly, I imagine you created that slide so people could read it. Secondly, let them read it. You have wasted words and a presentation slide, not to mention the insulting and boring nature of your brief if your plan is to parrot everything you are visually presenting.

Clarity doesn’t need much covering. You need to be clear and audible to everyone listening. Microphones are great, but they aren’t always available. More importantly, you need to give your work clarity. Talking in jargon, business lexicon and using specialist language in a brief doesn’t aid clarity. Imagine someone off the street has just walked in and intends to listen. Would they walk out of that meeting wondering what a APFSDS is? For your ‘clarity’ it is an Armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding-sabot, something which Tank guns use. But only people who work in a very specialised industry would be aware of that. So always speak a little slower and clearer than you would in a normal conversation, but strive for clarity in your presentation as much as your speech.

Give

We covered giving at great length in a previous post (The Aims of a Great Speaker). You are they to give to an audience. Give them as much insight and value as you can. Don’t just highlight a trend, recite statistics or make bold calls on the future. You need to tell your audience WHY you think these points are important and WHY they should be interested in them. Thats when you add value and truly give to an audience. You give them your assessments, and back them up with the supporting material. Adding value is simple, If you put a presentation slide on a screen and read it verbatim, you add nothing. display the slide, and talk through its contents and explain WHY those specific points made it onto that slide. People call it the ‘so what factor’. Tell someone the Polar Ice Caps are melting. So what. So… It is causing sea levels to rise and wildlife to be killed as a habitat and fragile Eco-system is being lost, due mostly to human activity. People now see your point about the Ice Caps and you have told them the ‘So-What’.

Engage

Again, a simple word with a very deep field. Engaging with an audience isn’t always possible. I have briefed Refugees and Displaced persons in a theatre of conflict. I couldn’t have a positive and humour filled engagement with my audience. I had to engage on a level of understanding and compassion, so as to reassure and help. Pitch yourself at the right level and ensure that you are engaging with an audience in a way that builds rapport and trust between you. Making observational jokes about your boss when presenting a project probably isn’t going to build rapport and trust. Humour is a universal language, however it should be tempered when your subject requires an audience to invest themselves.

Inspire

Inspiring someone isn’t restricted to your final closing address when speaking. Inspiration should be leaking from you and your work from the moment you begin. Your content, speech, insights, and yourself should all contain an air of inspiration. Sure you are going to make a plea or call to action at the end of your presentation, but your beginning and middle should also be filling the room with inspiration. I try to inspire by using soft skills such as my body language and use of eye contact. Pausing in a speech at a pertinent time is also a powerful psychological tool. You are literally giving the audience the short time to compute the bombshell you have just dropped on them. In my past, I briefed soldiers in training on future careers they could pursue in military. Inspiration was the name of the game. It was all about picking targets in the audience that I knew were the ‘right ones’. I would deliver my speech to everybody. However, I knew that it would only inspire the individuals that I could see were wide-eyed and on the front of their seat taking notes. Understand that not everyone will be inspired, you can put it on a plate for them by using these techniques, but if someone isn’t receptive they won’t get the message.

With these solid pointers, I hope you make these a part of your framework and foundation when crafting your work. Feel free to add more and test other combinations within these six core ideals. Rest assured, if you follow to make these your foundation and strive to perfect your work in line with these principles, you will not walk away with a bad piece of work.

There are a thousand materials with which you can build  your house with, but only several with which to build your foundations with.

 

 

The Importance of Being Somewhat Earnest

Bringing the Right Level of Intensity

Warren Buffett, one of the greatest investors and financial oracles of all time once said;

“Intensity is the price of excellence”

If you want to deliver the best speech or presentation, then you have to pay some amount of yourself into the thing you are creating. Not surprisingly, the more you put in, the better the end product will be.

Crafting a great speech or presentation requires time and thought. The same goes for your overall ability as a public speaker. Adapting, refining and perfecting your style becomes second nature once you have committed time and resources to pursuing  constant progress and excellence.

If I was to make a dovetail joint out of wood, at the same level of speed and workmanship as a veteran carpenter. I would not be able to achieve the same results. The carpenter after all has spent countless hours practicing and learning his craft. This focus and intensity must be the same when attempting to achieve anything in the realm of ‘excellent’; be it carpentry, music, athletics or public speaking.

To take intensity into a further area of public speaking. Your delivery and presence when presenting is also predicated by your intensity. As a motivational speaker delivering an intervention, you want to be insane in your level of intensity. because you want to engage your audience and have them feed off of the energy you are emanating.

Conversely, delivering a presentation in a meeting or any professional capacity, requires a lot less intensity. In a work environment, your intensity should be in overdrive when you are preparing and polishing your product. That way, your intensity is built into your final product. Your work will speak for itself, as a reflection of your efforts and ability.

Gauging where to be on the ‘intensity meter’ can be difficult sometimes. In my mind, whenever I take to a stage, I look for ‘tells’. An audience who applauds and whistles your arrival on stage, indicates my intensity and interaction with the audience needs to increase. Any professional or office related engagements will usually be guided by the topic i.e. your company’s ‘Third Quarter Financial Report’. This in’t going to be like the Comedy Store on a Friday night, however the presenter will (might) be enthusiastic and professional in delivering the presentation. But like we mentioned, that intensity and energy should have been coarsing through every slide and every word of his or her work.

As the title of the article says, being earnest is important. But, by how much is the question. In preparation and practice. Be 100% earnest; with yourself and your work. Do not cut corners or brush minor details aside. Every nut and bolt of your final rendition must be properly worked, otherwise the larger aspects will be jeopardised. Put your all into a project and it will show, not only to your audience and peers, but your ability to give and potentially provide in the future will show too. And remember, if you are genuinely passionate about it, people will sense your intensity and energy.

Focus on what you want to speak on. Lose yourself with plans and ideas. Put intensity and passion into the work. If you can stand back and look at finished work with satisfaction and strong pride. Then you have given your all to every detail.

The Aims of a Great Speaker

It’s About Being Selfless

I can safely say that most the frequent question I get is –

“What Qualities Make a Great Speaker?” 

It’s a simple question, but it has NO one answer. You have to break it down and prioritise all of the component parts that make a great speaker. From all of that analysis and brain-wracking, I can safely say that a great public speaker makes it their sole focus to GIVE.

It seems like a simple and somewhat smart-ass answer. But again, you have to analyse what a great speaker is ‘Giving’. When you are standing in front people and you are speaking, you are there to give. You are giving your view(s), analysis, opinion(s), belief(s) and value(s).

Hold this thought in your mind – ‘your sole purpose and all encompassing goal when addressing an audience is to GIVE.’ This is what all your deliveries should strive to be about. When crafting, practicing and delivering what you have been asked for by an audience; You must make it abundantly clear in your mind throughout that you want to give selflessly to the listener or viewer.

If you give yourself and your product on stage with genuine and emotional connection, you have already succeeded as a competent speaker. You can ooze confidence and knowledge when presenting but it will be a dull and less than rousing delivery.

However, a combination of knowledge and genuine selflessness to your audience will create an emotional anchor and much more memorable experience for your audience. Any perceived lack of confidence will be blurred or ignored by the simple act of genuinely connecting and giving more to the audience than you wish to take from them.

Confidence is a belief in yourself, it can be built and self appointed. I have watched the most arrogant and cocky of people present to their superiors. In some cases so brazen that they have ignored research, skipped practice and just turned up on the day, self assured that they are so good, they can’t possibly be critiqued. WRONG.

Not to say I enjoy someone being humiliated and belittled in a room of their peers. However, sometimes people like that need to be reminded that they only as good as the product they deliver. If they had remembered to GIVE. They would have given more effort, passion, knowledge and value to their audience. TAKING from an audience is the quickest way to lose credibility, integrity and respect.

You have been given the opportunity to stand in front of people, because your views, experiences and knowledge are respected and valued by your peers and superiors, hence why they have given you a platform on which to impart your wisdom. TAKING from them and using their good faith to further your aims will be a short lived plan. GIVE to your audience everything and more, confirming that their trust in you is well deserved. They will GIVE you back so much more value in respect and future opportunities.

Giving is more important than confidence, gravitas and impeccable presentation skills. The foundation of any Public Speaker should be to GIVE more than they TAKE, the rest is nurtured by a central theme of Giving.

 

 

New Year, New Talk.

Forget Resolutions and think Growth

I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for some time, I chewed over it and made cases for both sides. Over the Holiday it dawned on me, that I wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) do a Blog for my own reasons, but for others. A true Holiday epiphany. My only real goal is to impart some traditional and not so traditional advice and techniques to make Public Speaking seem less daunting. Feel free to get in touch and offer me any pointers or tips. I’ll be honest, I need all I can get.

We are comfortably into the New Year now, the romance and novelty has worn off and we are all back to work. Simply put, the ‘New Year, new me’ hashtags and gym photos are getting less and less frequent…

Resolutions are pretty much useless nowadays. less than 10% of people who set a New Year’s resolution actually make it through the year. So we at Lib-Orator are going about things a different way. Sufficed to say we haven’t jumped on the band wagon.

When I hear the word resolution I think of punishment and suffering. like eating less chocolate or going to the gym more. I don’t immediately think of self improvement or growth. So here is the proposition:

Make yourself uncomfortable. We grow from the uncomfortable and stressful. Put yourself in public situations that make you want to shy away from the moment. I don’t mean go naked at your local swimming pool (that’s just asking for trouble). What it means is that you should speak to strangers on the train, in queues, in the super market. Anywhere you are, so are strangers; people you haven’t met yet.

– Ask that guy on the morning commute if he wouldn’t mind giving you the sports pages.

– Strike up conversation with the person in the queue next to you.

– Someone at work, the hairdressers, the florists, your postman, or the gym (providing your  New Years ‘Gym Resolution’ is still standing).

Ask them how their weekend was, what they have coming up, etc. My best piece of advice for anyone attempting this is to BE OBSERVANT. A lot of the time you can find a conversation starter or opener just by looking at what someone is doing. For example, a person reading Game of Thrones on the train… Easy prey!

The goal here is to learn and grow from it. Anyone who is of little to no relation is ideal. The more awkward the better. There’s more benefit to be had. Speaking Publicly is awkward, it’s exposing and it is also a terrifying event for over half of the UK and US. Glossophobia gets ranked above spiders and fire a lot of the time. Odd, I know.

So here is your takeaway:

Make peace with the awkward vulnerability you feel. Understand that being told ‘no’ or ‘I’m busy’ isn’t the end of the world. Whether you strike up a conversation or strike out. You are improving.