I wanted to be the speaker they would never forget. But God, I was nervous. I was waiting to take the stage to deliver one of my very first keynote addresses before a very prestigious organization in my industry. How would I do? How would I perform? What if I embarrassed myself? What if I forgot my first few lines? What If I bombed? What if, what if, what if… ?
As it has always been in my life, the perfect lesson comes to me with perfect timing. My coach was with me and seemed to sense my deep anxiety and myopic obsession with how I would perform. A few minutes before I was introduced, he casually (albeit strategically) shared with me what he called the life cycle of a speaker, and, for me, everything changed. My hope is that it will for you as well.
Phase One: New speakers must, at a minimum, get good quickly at delivering a decent presentation of information and facts, often complete with amazing PowerPoint slide shows!
He called Phase One: The Presentation—Useful. Interesting. All about you.
Phase Two: As speakers grow, they generally begin to transform their presentations and recitation of facts into one complete with humor, stories, anecdotes, analogies, and sometimes even fancy videos!
He called Phase Two: The Performance—Entertaining. Captivating. And still… all about you.
Phase Three: Masterful speakers—speakers we never forget—take their information, interspersed with beautifully-crafted stories and relatable humor, and they lock-in with their audience on that particular day, in that particular moment. They have an intimate exchange with their audience that moves and transforms them, that is not canned or overly practiced, that is so authentic, passionate, moving, and fully present that we, as an audience, are mesmerized (transported!). We never forget how we felt in that moment. They reach into our hearts and carefully but firmly place their jewel of revelation which we, then, carry forward forever into our lives. We feel they were speaking directly to us, even in a crowd of many. We are changed.
He called Phase Three: The Conversation—Moving, Intimate, Present, Interactive… and definitely all about THEM.
Mastery of “The Conversation” is challenging and at the same time… it’s easy. It simply requires that first and foremost we truly know our material in our very bones and that we begin speaking with what Simon Bailey calls our “original voice” versus an “annoying echo” of what has already been said by someone else. If this is the platform on which you stand, then take a deep breath and physically “drop in” to your audience, becoming emotionally present with them and allowing a two-way vibrational “conversation” to occur between them and you. This exchange is what allows our knowledge, gifts, passion, and conviction to simply flow through us directly into them. This is where the magic really happens. This is when we trust that whatever this audience needs to hear and feel from us to have an internal shift to the place we most want them to experience will come. It will find its way through us to them if we trust the process, shifting our attention and energy from us to them.
And when you’re in that space, whatever we need to feel from them to give them that experience also comes. If we are truly present with them, we instinctively know it, don’t we? We know in our gut when they are with us and when we are losing them. We know when they need to interact with the information, even if it’s not when we thought they would! What if we allowed them to communicate in this “conversation” with us in such a way that we could shift on the spot to allow them what they need to experience the information more fully? The good news is you can. You must know your material and then be willing to be YOU and to feel confident enough to flow with the energy and message they are sending. When we stop worrying about being the perfect speaker and put our full focus on being the conduit for exactly what this group of fellow humans needs to be moved, inspired, unlocked, then our true genius is released.
So, at your next presentation when your name is called, the audience is applauding, and you’re walking up onto the stage, take a second and really “see” them, sincerely smile at them, drop in to them, and have an a mind-blowing, paradigm-shifting, life-changing conversation.
“There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”
~ Alexander Gregg