The Photographer or Artist

Anyone can take a picture. However, it takes an Artist to make a picture.

Photographers and Artist have a lot in common; however, they see things quite differently. The Photographer sees things as they are. The Artist sees things from their audience’s perspective. The Photographer’s view to some is considered to be self-serving. The Artist sees things as you; the audience would like it to be. Hence, we should strive to be an Artist when we are on the platform. Anyone can take a picture. However, it takes an Artist to make a picture. The question is therefore, which one are you aspiring to be like when you are on the platform – Do you want to be like The Photographer or Artist?

While all speakers start like Photographers, a speaker’s goal should be to become an Artist. Photographer’s work depends significantly on the quality of their gear. All the Artist needs is vision, experience, and confidence. The great speakers never surrender their pen to satisfy their audience expectations. They are original in their thinking. While working with Derek Walcott in my early theater years, I admired how he tirelessly stressed what it takes to be an original. Derek was a risk-taker. He would often take risks with his choice of words when many of his mere mortals believed his language had the potential to be more destructive than productive. He firmly believed that you could not make it as an Artist without taking risks. As a speaker, very early I chose not to settle for being one of the many imitators. Imitations may get a second look. However, originals take to you to places only where your imagination would ever dare to go.

Finding your voice as an Artist takes courage, conviction, and a commitment to being honest. Be true to your beliefs, even when there is a cost. In 2007 I attended a coaching session with Dbrooks at sea. His advice that we should never comment on something someone cannot change stuck with me. Sometimes it is best to let them figure it out. Being liked as a speaker has its benefits, but audiences also love listening to speakers they respect. The comments and feedback of the respected are often concisely packaged with wisdom that speaks volumes. Having been a member of the Edge for many years, Mark Brown and Daren LaCroix immediately come to mind. They are speaker coaches whose comments may sound abstract at first, but you realize they are the Artist’s teachings that make you get the picture over time.

Speakers often ask, can someone change from being like the Photographer to become more like an Artist? Indeed, they all can, but they cannot be forced or coached into making that switch. It all depends on who you want to become as a speaker. For starters, the change begins with a commitment to being observant. You should be willing to step outside of our comfort zone to see things differently. It would help if you are also more probing about the events you encounter in your daily life. Practice focusing on only one thing at a time and share your observations with friends and family. Call that sharing storytelling time. Get off the treadmill of life and observe the many exciting events that often pass by silently. They are the stories that pluck the strings of our emotions.

In 2007 Dbrooks also advised that we document the related emotions when we capture events in writing. He also suggested that while perfection is impossible, excellence is always good enough. The first step is to write it all down. Just like a photographer, you must first capture the moment and the emotion. Later, that experience can be re-written. It is in the re-writing, you will take what you got initially to become better. In your re-writing, you should strive to develop the picture that is relatable to your audience and not just the Photographer in you. How you choose to build on what you captured initially over time determines if you will be known as another one of the millions of Photographers on the platform, or if you are on your way to becoming known in the speaking world as an Artist

The Enemy Within

Make the Enemy of your Enemy, your friend.

The fear of the unknown causes many people to avoid speaking Public Speaking. Some see the audience as the Enemy when in fact, it is the “Enemy Within” that must be faced and defeated. It is the voices in our heads screaming, “you are going to make a fool of yourself, shut up!” that is the real Enemy. Audiences don’t root for you to fail. They listen and respond to what they saw, heard, and felt. Silence those voices of doom and gloom, and you will discover it is the “Enemy Within” that was preventing you from realizing your public speaking dreams. We all have unique stories to tell. Improvement and not perfection should be your goal. Even some of the best speakers known to us all will be the first to say “in Public Speaking, perfection does not exist.” Some may see perfection in a Picasso, while others may not. We will never know the unknown until we try, fail and try again. Sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will fail. However, it is the lessons learned from your failure that will significantly exceed what you have achieved from your successes.

The first step to conquering your fear of public speaking is to embrace your fears. Make the Enemy of your Enemy, your friend. It is an ancient proverb that suggests, two parties can and should work against a common enemy. The common Enemy, the voices in your head you must silence. Those voices will never completely go away even when you have exceeded your expectations. Listen carefully to the feedback you receive as new voices emerge to help you on your journey. Mistakes will be made but not repeated. Speak to the smiling, friendly faces. They will boost your confidence and give you the assurance your audience is rooting for you to succeed. Read their faces like you are reading a book. Seek out those audience members responding to your message with a nod, a smile as you embrace the moment. Respond with your smiles and a twinkle in your eyes as you make your connection with words that matter.

Public Speaking requires that you have something to say. It is a requirement. You should also be able to anticipate how your audience might react after they have heard what you had to say. Choose your words carefully and know what you are targeting with your words. At times you will speak to the head. There are times you will talk to the heart, In all cases, narrowed your message down to a sentence consisting of no more than five to seven words. That sentence will anchor your message. It is also your go-to sentence if you should ever get lost for words. Yes, that happens not to some, but to us all even when we are on the platform. When every word you speak has a purpose – when every story you tell has the power to change lives – when the voices in your heart replace the voices in your head – Your authentic voice will be heard, and your presence will be felt.

Are you ready to accept the challenges of being a Public Speaker? As you begin to develop a style of your own, you will observe changes in those same negative voices you once heard. They become friendlier and may even start to sound like your best friend. That is when you must be careful. Taking your audiences for granted is one of the biggest mistakes many speakers make. All audiences are not the same. Prepare for each audience diligently and differently. The three P’s of Public Speaking becomes magnified each time you step on the platform. Your three P’s? – Preparation, Practice, and Presentation. Each time you speak, the expectations become greater than your last appearance. Your new voices from within must now emerge. As you speak, think about the six emotions that will make new connections with your audiences. Be happy, be sad, be surprised, be angry, add fear and even disgust to your speaking, and with time and practice, you too could become best friends with the Enemy Within.

Communicating with Empathy

When both are listening, both are connecting.

Communicating with empathy is a skill all speakers must develop to connect with their audiences. Some may ask how you do that when you are on the platform. You observe your audiences’ body language. We all have heard these words of wisdom by Ralph Waldo Emmerson repeatedly: “Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.” That statement goes both ways. Studies show that your words account for only 7% of the message we convey. The remaining 93% is non-verbal. What about the non-verbal responses you are receiving from your audience. Should you ignore them? No! Communicating with empathy is crucial; whether you are the speaker or listener, when both are listening, both are connecting.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feeling of others. Reading your listener’s reactions does not mean your audience will agree with everything you are communicating. Your presentation is your point of view. You can show empathy by showing that you care, and you are willing to understand why your audience may feel a particular way when you sense agreement or disagreement. Granted, you are not going to make significant changes to your speech when you are on the platform; however, if you take a moment to acknowledge your audience’s reaction, they are more inclined to connect with you. When you sense disagreement, you can show compassion or use eye contact to maintain your connection.

Your audience responses are usually nonverbal; however, a smile or a questioning look will often alert you to the fact that you may have made a connection or have raised a question in the minds of your audience. All unanswered questions are distractions. Put yourself in your listener’s shoes for just a moment. Listeners want to understand what the speaker is communicating. They may have silently verbalized what they have just heard. It is only natural for listeners to respond in a manner that shows agreement or disagreement with the speaker. The speakers who tune into their audience reactions and responses will usually make a connection. Those speakers also practice their formula for maintaining that connection with their audience.

Regardless of how strange your audience responses may appear, it is wise to believe that they will always have a rational explanation for their reaction. Go with the flow as you try to understand their frame of reference. Understanding is an essential first step, especially when dealing with difficult topics. By letting the listener express their deepest emotions, you will most likely understand their frame of reference. As is often said, seek to understand, if you wish to be understood. How you choose to frame your reaction can also make all the difference in defusing disagreements when you are on the platform.

Some speakers handle strong emotions with success by deflecting their feelings. The practice being counter-intuitive. They turn right when you are expecting them to go left. That move can even generate a bit of humor at times. Observe and acknowledge the body language you are receiving as you speak. Make small adjustments as you deliver your presentation. Be in the moment. Maintaining a connection with your audience will determine your success or failure on the platform. When you can make everyone feel special – when you can make people listen and know that you care – when you are present, you are communicating with empathy.

Communicating Effectively

Silence sends the message.

20190423_144540Effective communication depends on the development of your speaking and listening skills. We speak to be heard, understood, and to be repeated when communicating. However, when the message sent is not the message received, we seldom focus on if the listener was listening effectively. Effective communication is sharing information in a manner that the listener understands what the speaker is saying. It also depends not only on what is said but also on what’s heard. What is heard may not be the result of how what was said but more about well we listen. We can significantly improve our communication skills when we are conscious of how we communicate as the speaker as well as the listener.

The first question we should ask ourselves is how present we are – when we are the listener. As the listener, do we impress upon the speaker we are ready to tune in to their message? Do we assure the speaker that they have our undivided attention? When speakers are on the platform, they can emphasize the importance of receiving the audience’s attention by patiently waiting in silence before delivering their first words. Body language will tell you when your audience is ready with high expectations and are prepared to listen. And when you begin speaking, the onus is on you to fulfill their expectations by continuously reading their active or silent responses to let you know how what you are communicating is being heard and received.

How you convey your message will determine your success or failure on or off the platform. It is not what you say; it is also how it is said. The body language of the listener will tell if they understand what they are hearing. Their smiles or icey steers will make you realize if your listeners are uncomfortable with what you are delivering. As you speak, you must read your audience’s emotional responses. Their agreement sometimes takes place silently. When communication is being conducted face to face silence, should not be regarded as an opportunity to butt in quickly. Active listening requires that you wait your turn to make an appropriate response at the right time. When you are the listener, whether the speaker is on or off the platform, let your speaker pause. Silence sends the message.

Speakers and listeners can significantly improve their communication by developing good habits and correcting bad practices. The best place to start is by observing how you communicate at home. Focus on reading the body language you are receiving as you speak. Resist trying to begin speaking before you have your audience’s undivided attention. Be clear about what you heard before attempting to respond and to be understood. Use that moment of silence to ask your audience before you begin speaking, are prepared to start listening? And once you are sure that you, the speaker and listener, have established a connection. The messages you send will be messages received, and both speaker and listener are now well on a path to communicating effectively.

What is Your Purpose

The Four Basic Classifications of Purpose


fb_img_1573652958802Often, it is said when you speak from your heart, the world will listen. However, whether you are on or off the platform, you must have a purpose before you begin speaking. If you don’t have a purpose, you don’t have a speech. You may have received that bit of wisdom many moons ago from your parents when you were taught; it is best to say nothing if you have nothing to say. Speaking; public or private, all boils down to this simple question, what is your purpose – Is your intention to Inform, Inspire, Persuade, or Entertain? While you can achieve all four of those goals in a single presentation, one of those four basic classifications of purpose should be your primary focus. 

The Four Basic Classifications of Purpose are To:

1. Inform or Instruct – This is a skill mastered by many teachers seeking to unveil the mysteries of life. Legislators, politicians, and advocates also inform when lobbying to win the votes of candidates. They all speak to inform or instruct when presenting facts, figures, and data. When presenting data, facts, and figures, if your focus is on “speaking to inform,” you will achieve your objectives.  

2. Stimulate or Inspire. Preachers are experts at being inspirational. When your purpose is to stimulate or inspire others to come with you to the promised land, that’s quite a tall order. Exciting and inspiring your audience may also take some teaching and quite a lot of preaching. But finding that right balance is most important. Remember, you are speaking more to the heart than the head. First, speak to the heart, and the head will follow.   

3. Persuade or Convince. All speaking is selling. You may be selling a product, idea, or speech. Selling requires the skills of a salesperson. Many use the AIDA formula. A-attention – I-interest D-desire and A-action. Salespersons don’t just try to sell you their product. They sell you how that item will make you feel or how it will improve your lifestyle. They sell the new car smell, that modern look or a bigger house, although their primary focus is your pocketbook and closing the sale. 

4. Entertain or AmuseThe most difficult of the four. Humor is a double-edged sword. Humor can damage your purpose if your primary focus is to Instruct, Inspire, or Convince. When your sole purpose for being on the platform is to amuse or entertain, you can add some teaching, preaching, or persuading. However, if your primary focus is on amusing and entertaining your audience, you would achieve your purpose when you focus on humor. You don’t have to be a comedian. Writing to amuse or entertain is a skill mastered by few, but admired by many. 

As you can see, all four of the classifications are interrelated, but your primary purpose must be obvious to your audience. The trick is to find that perfect balance when using all four in a presentation. No one wants to be schooled, persuaded, or even entertained for the entire duration of a speech. Audiences enjoy being treated to your use of language as you deliver your message – When your reason for being on the platform is evident. When you are sure you will convince your audience to take some action or make changes to their life or the lives of others after hearing you speak, your talk or speech will achieve the first requirement of speaking in public – your purpose. And whether you are on off the platform, if you speak from your heart, the world will listen.

  

Concluding Like The Masters

Churchill, King, Regan Kennedy, and their famous speechwriters.

20180621_214212The great orators and their speechwriters all used words of wisdom and quotes to highlight their POV – Point of View and to complement their speeches. They all quote the good book, for it is written. Churchill, King, Regan, Kennedy, all referenced the Psalms, Proverbs, and their personal stories that became statements or phrases wordy of being repeated. Great speakers speak to be heard, to be remembered, and to be repeated. Their opening remarks are direct and bold. However, it is in their closings; they appealed to the emotions of everyone, rallying their troops and delivering words of wisdom that continue to linger in the hearts and minds of audiences long after their applause.

Endings are your final opportunity to leave your audience with a lasting impression of your presentation and you, the speaker. Last words linger. It is for that reason, I strongly recommend you develop your powerful endings just as the great ones did. When you use a quote or your words of wisdom associated with the great orators, you sometimes shift the power and focus away from you, the speaker, tothe masters. It is wise to quickly refocus your audience with a power statement of your own. Many of your best endings will often come to you from your personal stories. No one can relate your stories better than you, even when you struggle emotionally to find the right words. In your words and wisdom, someone will always find the power in your truth.

The process of closing requires as much attention and planning as your opening. Why try to be Columbus. Learn from the great ones, but retain the power of the moment. The moment is yours. The passion and relationships you built with that audience are in your hands. If you choose to use the words of wisdom of one the masters, add your personal touch. Always remember, it is much more profound to close with one of your anecdotes or power statements than theirs. Give your closing the attention it deserves. Avoid ending similar to, in conclusion – Finally, That’s all I have or, the dreaded – Oops! I have just run out of time. Closings work best when you telegraph to the audience a sense of closure, and you are wrapping things up. You are now adding the bow to your gift – the speech – to the audience.

Signal to your audience, you are in wrapup mode by summarizing your main points. Make a call to action – ask a rhetorical question or a series of questions – build the energy and tension in the room – add drama to your closing remarks. Refer to a power statement you made in your opening if you had one. You are at that point of your talk where you must speak to the hearts and minds of your audience. When your closing inspires your audience to repeat your words, repeat your anecdotes, and repeat your unique sayings, your closing will linger to leave a lasting impression on the lives of your audience. Develop and use your words of wisdom and quotes with pride, hope, and love. And who knows; someday you will be quoted for your own memorable words of wisdom like the great orators of all times – Churchill, King, Regan Kennedy, and their famous speechwriters.

Beginning Your Speech – Tell Me More

Pleasantries and excuses for any reason are nonstarters.

fb_img_1573652958802The first moments of your speech are often the most critical. In those opening moments, you have the full attention of your audience. They are sizing you up. If that audience have never seen or heard you speak before, expectations are heightened. Your opening will often determines if you will hold that attention to take your audience to another level or fall flat, leaving everyone uninspired and disappointed. In those opening moments, you want to grab the attention of your audience. You want to introduce your topic. You need to establish rapport, or check in with your audience before transitioning smoothly into the body of your presentation. You want them to think quuietly -tel me more.

Your introduction and speech title should create anticipation, add drama and suspense to your opening. In the interest of time and to avoid boredom, what was said in your introduction should not be repeated. Your speech title will still be in the minds of your audience. I often try to have my title function like a light switch. Ask yourself the question, would this title switch my audience on – off – or perhaps do both. I have found that both works best when it makes your audience think – “tell me more.” Take time to decide on a title that does not give away your presentation but offers a hint of what’s to follow, whets their appetite, and inspires your audience to think as they increase their attention, to you and your presentation, “tell me more.”

Pleasantries and excuses for any reason are nonstarters. With that type of opening, you will surely lose your audience most likely, for the rest of your speech. Your introduction must hold on to the gift, the initial attention and spotlight drawn to you and your presentation by your presenter. A smile, good eye contact, enthusiasm, or a follow up comment about your introduction, if appropriate, are good audience ice-breakers. However, remember to stay focused on your purpose and topic. Begin your presentation. When your listeners understand your topic and why they should listen to your speech, they will always pay closer attention. One technique I sometimes use to hold on to my audience is to make a promise early. Remind them of that promise a few times during the presentation and fulfill the promise before closing.

In your opening, take a moment to establish rapport with your audience. If you appear to be angry or frustrated, your demeanor will negatively resonate with your audience. If you appear to be all positive or all negative, that too can be a turnoff. Strike a balance with what you are presenting. You can begin by stating a vital statistic, shock your audience with an outrageous comment, arouse suspense or curiosity or, tell a moving story. Balance works best. If you built tension, resolve it. Contrast is also an excellent technique to pique your listener’s interest. Whatever you do, your gold should be to draw your audience to you and the value of your presentation. First impressions are lasting. Often, you will only have one chance to create that first impression. That one chance is the first moment of your speech may very well be when your audience is thinking quietly – Tell Me More.

Your Feedback Partner

Training your feedback partner to evaluate you is a good idea.

20191212_131721Do you have a feedback partner? We hear it repeatedly; we learn through feedback. Still, it is one of the most problematic aspects of bringing a speech to the platform. What do you do with all that feedback you receive? How do you separate feedback from opinions. We all know, not all feedback is useful; however, all comments are worth careful examination.  Constructive criticism is helpful; they make you take a more in-depth look into what your audience may be hearing, thinking, and feeling. To help you develop those analytics, a feedback partner can be a tremendous asset to your development as a speaker.

Training your feedback partner to evaluate you is a good idea. You know what you are trying to achieve as a speaker. Find someone with whom you share similar goals and would tell you precisely what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. Sure, it can be disheartening to hear the speech you worked on for months or years still requires a tremendous amount of work. I know the feeling very well. However, my feedback partner has always been the one I would turn to before being judgmental about any feedback I receive.

Take turns giving and receiving feedback from your partner. Become familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Discuss all weaknesses and be specific about what each other is trying to achieve. A well-prepared speech is just the beginning of the delivery process. Discuss the many aspects of your delivery to determine where you need the most help. Address one of your concerns in each evaluation. One evaluation can be about your breathing, transitions, or vocal variety. Be clear about what you want your partner to focus on. A feedback partner, who is familiar with your speaking style, is the best person to provide you with their observations.

It is also essential to look for repeated comments in your evaluations. Discuss those comments with your partner. When you are receiving the same observation from different evaluators, at different times, that is most likely an alert to a habit worth avoiding. It is common to resort to what comes naturally when we are under pressure. Even when we know that habit is substandard, but feels good, we will more often than not, resort to it when it is in our comfort zone. Breaking those bad habits do not come easy. Find that special someone with whom you are comfortable, and over time, you will achieve the success you are seeking to become someone’s, super feedback partner.

Chairmanship

Excellent Chairmanship is ensuring all contributors are heard. 

20200319_122011_001We all participate in hundreds of meetings each year. We will belong to many different organizations and will participate in various types of meetings. If you are to give your best when you attend these meetings, if you are to be respected and your opinions heard, you need to practice the basic principles of Chairmanship. How is your Chairmanship?

Members of organizations are busy people. The amount of time they devote to the organizations to belong to is limited. They expect the meeting they attend to run efficiently with no time wasted. When you are the Chairman, it is your responsibility to ensure that your objectives are achieved. The productive meeting starts and ends on time. The following are some best practices to follow when you are the Chairman.

A written agenda is a must. The agenda should also be distributed to all the attendees before the start of the meeting. Making the agenda available allows everyone to focus on the topic to be discussed. It also allows everyone to prepare and time his or her presentations. Your agenda plays a significant role in making sure your meeting ends on time. If you don’t have an agenda, what you may end up having might just be a free for all party. An agenda will keep everyone on the straight and narrow.

Respect the time and efforts of those who show up on time. Why wait for those who are not present. The scheduled time on the program is when the meeting should begin. If you don’t have a quorum, the Chairman can call the meeting to order and call for a recess of five to ten minutes, at which time, adjustments should be made to the agenda to make sure the session ends on time. The members who show up on time should not be punished for their due diligence.

Make sure the program proceeds at a pace that is acceptable to all attendees. Rushing through topics to complete the agenda is unacceptable. This is where your Chairmanship will be tested.  When a discussion wanders off subject or is taking more time than expected, this is when a chairman must exercise Chairmanship. Keeping participants engaged but not allow anyone to dominate the meeting.  A good chairman also recognizes those who seem reluctant to speak up.  Excellent Chairmanship is ensuring all contributors are heard. 

Ending your meeting on a positive note is very important. Sending everyone off at the end of a meeting feeling drained and asking did we accomplished is unacceptable for any organization. If a significant issue cannot be resolved, the problem can be assigned to a committee or place on the parking lot for more discussion at a later time, at that meeting or another. A good Chairman ends their session with a summary. They also make sure everyone understands the decisions made and actions to be taken. Follow these steps, and you will be respected by all your attendees for your wonderful Chairmanship.

Polishing Your Speech

Removing some of the glitter allow the speaker to shine.

20200216_112006Polishing your speech is a critical process all speakers should perform before you take their speech to the platform. You have answered all the essential questions – You have written and rewritten your speech – You have practiced, edited, and reedited your presentation. Now your decisive moment has arrived. You must now polish your speech for presentation. What is going to be your strategy? Are you going to stay polished all the way, or are you going to leave a little rust for the finished product to appear original, genuine, and authentic? That is a question you must now answer.

One approach is to look for power statements in your speech. Power statements similar to your foundational statement speech can have a lingering effect on your audience. They should be one of your prime targets. Practice the phrases and stressing the keywords in those statements.  Tell your story to make a point. Those words will bring your statements to life. Make sure that statement is relevant to your message. Ask yourself how I can spotlight that statement as I practice my delivery. I have known speakers to use the familiar green, yellow, and red highlighters to highlight and serve as reminders as they practice their polishing. Try it – it works.

The part of your speech that has universal appeal should also be your focus. Polish but also keep in mind that old saying, all that glitters is not gold. As you approach critical portions of your presentation, ask yourself which of the three H’s apply. The three H’s are Head, Heart, and Heavy lifting. What am I appealing to – the Head, Heart, or do I now want my audience to do my Heavy Lifting. When you can engage your audience by polishing your point just enough to touch their three H’s – you would have achieved your goal. You have made a connection.

Removing some of the glitter allow the speaker to shine. As you complete your polishing, it is wise to make sure you did not sacrifice that which is most important to your audience – clarity. When your polishing can help your clarity your point, it is most effective. At times, all it takes is replacing a verb or an adjective in a sentence. Some toastmasters use speech brighteners, which I have mentioned in previous postings. Brighteners can make your point stick. For example – He was the kind of person who has had a lifelong romance. At an early age, he fell in love with himself. Also, they can also reinforce a point – He is the boss who was seeking a secretary in her thirties with forty years’ experience.

Polishing can be fun. I learned years ago that when you are polishing and don’t wear gloves – your hand can get dirty – so be careful. Once the exercise is over, remove your gloves and, with clean hands, give that presentation. It is now a presentation you wrote – rewrote, edited, re-edited, polished, and is now ready, like a well-prepared dish, to be served to your audience on the platform.