What’s A Public Speaker?

There was a time when only those with special status were given the privilege of speaking out in a public manner.

Back in the day, kings, emperors, generals, actors, and professional orators were ‘given the floor’ to speak freely to the rest of us. We plebeians were expected to fill our seats and pay attention.

Today, We Are All Public Speakers

Yes, things have changed! We’ve all gained our corner of the stage with the advent of professional journalism, broadcasting, and now, social media and personalized recording technologies. Anyone who wants a public voice can have one. In fact, the minute you open a social media account, you effectively become a public speaker of some type.

That doesn’t mean that we all know how to do it, to do it well, or that we have the confidence to take the stage, however. While we may have a voice, way may not have taken possession of it.

Mastering ‘Speaking Up – Speaking Out’

It is a longer road for some of us than for others. Were you a youngest child who’s family attention hung on your every cherished word? Or, did you grow up in a household where you competed for attention, or where children should be seen but not heard?

Did starting school give you a whole new platform to play and influence or bring new levels of challenge and humility. Chances are, we’ve all been laughed at for saying just the perfect thing at just the wrong time, but the reactions we received are likely as diverse as our ability to handle them. And we haven’t even started on social media yet ….

The point is that where public speaking is concerned we all have a history and, for most of us, it’s fraught.

I Dropped Out of Three Professional Acting Classes Before I Could Speak Up in One

I grew up a reserved oldest daughter in a house full of boisterous, fun boys. I grew up on stage dancing … never opened my mouth. I grew up cheering along my favorite high school teams, but struggling to say hello to the players. I knew I had a voice, I wrote like crazy. But those inner words, my deeper self, rarely saw the light of day. I would have been mortified.

When I moved to NY, one of my dreams was to train and try my skills as an actor. I signed up for three different acting classes (yes, on Broadway), and dropped out of each. When the time came to speak up, to express and reveal through my voice, I couldn’t.

I won’t bore you with the story, but I learned some deep lessons about what happens when you don’t own, don’t use your voice. I worked hard to figure out what my voice was, why the challenges, and how to overcome. Acting did ultimately help. I had a breakthrough! I began to add speaking up, speaking out to my quiet expressions of art, photography and writing ….

I’m Still on That Journey

But, I’ve learned a lot and I love sharing it. Not just the information, the support. I love the experience of being in the presence of humans learning to enjoy their voice and speak their truth. It’s an honor to provide a wing as they learn to fly.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that this is an aspect of ourselves that’s hard to practice and master if we do not feel safe. That’s why CEJ Studio is a private space for public speakers, a safe space to learn, experiment, practice.

Now That’s A Public Speaker!

What an opportunity … to grow from those old experiences, fears, or wounds into the joy of embracing our own voice. We can make a chorus, but the voice is uniquely ours. There’s no other like it!

So, what’s a public speaker? Yes, someone with something relevant, revealing, interesting, motivating, inspiring to say … someone who’s ready say it.

What Are Your Words Creating?

Words matter. They are the bricks with which we build identity and hope and with those, a productive life. This illuminating experiment has an interesting message for us all.

Ikea wanted young people to think about the impact of bullying. They displayed two identical house plants in enclosed containers in schools and piped recorded voices to them 24/7 for 30 days.

One plant got only loving, appreciating messages. The other was bullied. Whoever walked by could watch the messages do their work. Young people were allowed to record some of the messages themselves.

At the end of the experiment, the loved plant had grown and was thriving. The bullied plant appeared to be dying.

Was this science? Not really. There was no control and we don’t know if other factors may have been at play. We don’t really know scientifically what happened there. But, it is curious. And, it does get one thinking about …

The Impact Of Our Words

Public Speaking is a particularly stressful activity and very few begin it feeling enthusiastic and confident. Most jump right into self-criticism … self-bullying, self-creating the Public Speaking equivalent of the wilted plant. That’s not good!

The way we speak to ourselves is just as powerful, if not more so, than the way we speak to others. The way we define our last presentation directly shapes the energy and confidence we will, or won’t bring to the next one. Deem one a failure and the next one will be. How to stop the self-bullying loop?

Find A Success In Every Presentation

Let that set you up for the next.

Did you make particularly good eye contact, even if you flubbed the data? Great! You made good eye contact! Yes … there was the data … but, you made good eye contact!! Did you start moving more comfortably even if you didn’t fully answer that question? Yay!! You’re moving more comfortably. The more you practice and get comfortable with moving, the less distracted you’ll be and more you can focus on the questions.

Every presentation is a step in creating yourself as a speaker, and that step is as strong as you make it. Call yourself a learner and define your speech performance based on the things you did well, then get to work planning the next one. Sure, work on the issues; they will be temporary. But, find the positive and make that your name.

Try to remember the Ikea experiment. Be kind to others and to yourself. Your success as a speaker (and as a human) may depend on using the words you say to yourself to build the beauty of you.

Breaking the Ice: Icebreakers

So, you’ve got another meeting to plan. It’s that weekly meeting. Same people. Pretty much the same topic. Need something to up the engagement?

Sometimes it’s as easy as starting with an icebreaker. Sure, you all know each other. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something more to learn about your co-workers. And, play can loosen up the room … spark  creative thinking.

In fact, some icebreakers work best when everyone already knows each other.

Try this …

Put a blank piece of paper in front of each attendee. When all are seated, have them write a question on the paper and crumple it up, then toss the paper ball to another person at the table to be answered. Meeting virtually? Have each person message the question to the person to their left on the meeting screen.

Or this,

Write these three questions on a line or virtual white board or on large sticky notes on the wall:

  1. What is the last movie or TV show you saw that gave you an idea about your work?
  2. Name a problem you would like to solve.
  3. What great idea of your own or someone else’s did you experience last week?

Each attendee answers each question in five words or less. Discuss.

The internet is full of icebreaker ideas.

Search on ‘meeting icebreakers’, ‘class icebreakers’, ‘improv games meetings’, etc. I found these 5 Awesome Meeting Icebreaker’s to Get Your Meeting Started.

In any case,

Be careful about underestimating the value of an icebreaker, especially when in a group that already knows each other. They inspire, build community and momentum.

Icebreakers help gel the ‘marriage of skills‘ that is your team.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

When presenting, you may know your message well, but your audience doesn’t.  You have to teach them. That means repeat your core idea at least three times

Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them what you’re telling them.
Tell them what you’ve told them.

Dale Carnegie

I wrote this little poem about it to help you remember:

When you’ve a message
you want all to recall
but, the listener’s
tired and distracted.
Don’t worry, my dear,
repetition’s your friend!
Repeating is where you get traction.

Plant the seed.
Lay the message out once.
Yes, you could even try spelling.
But, the message is risked
if it’s not fixed
in the anchoring soil of re-telling.

So, repeat it,
then say it again.
Your audience isn’t a know-it-all.
Repeating mitigates
all the dissipates.
Repeat puts the ‘all’ in recalling.

I know what you’re thinking.
can’t possibly fix all the blanking.
But, trust me, my friend,
when the goal is retrieving …
nothing beats the art of repeating!

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NaPoWriMo is National Poetry Writing Month. Participants commit to write a poem a day and publish it in the WordPress community. Christie wrote this poem for the 2014 NaPoWriMo challenge to write a poem with the word ‘repeating’.