Your ideas come faster than you think in meetings and conversations. Worried that you think too much? Learn here how to speak on the moment!
You know the expression, "to speak your mind," don't you? It's really an accurate description, and more appropriate than we think. Actually, speaking fluently at the right moment is a key communication skill, especially when you're participating in meetings and conversations.
Doing so is a problem for some people, however. Either they are hesitant to join a discussion, believing they may not have enough to say on a topic. Or once they have something to say, they start to mentally polish and develop their idea until they are ready at last to contribute—and by that time, the meeting has moved on to the next topic. (This behavior is common to introverts, among others.)
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If you're in this camp, you should understand a key concept of speech as a communication tool. In fact, it's not going too far to say that this can be a profound realization when it comes to your level of confidence and success when conversing with others. I explain what I mean below.
Speaking Is Also Thinking . . . So Use Both!
In our desire to look and sound good in front of others, we naturally want to contribute ideas and remarks that are on point and valuable. We know we can't contribute to discussions just for the sake of being heard if what we say doesn't have value. At the same time, having that viewpoint during evolving real-time discussions (meetings, panels, asking a question as an audience member, etc.) can freeze us in place. Call it the "I-Can't-Open-My-Mouth-Until-I-Get-All-Of-This-Right" syndrome.
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But that's not the way our minds work when it comes to speaking, and we all need to grasp that fact. If that were the way our minds functioned, we'd all be sitting around conference tables in silence, while everyone perfected their ideas. Then, everybody would start speaking at once . . . and imagine the difficulty of processing the profound thoughts of all those Albert Einsteins, Madame Curies, and Thomas Jeffersons!
Instead, meetings work because of a very different reality, and it's this: The art of speaking IS the art of thinking. When it comes to public speaking, that is, they are one and the same. This means not only that you are forming ideas while you are saying them. It's that you shape and perfect your ideas because you are speaking. In other words, speech is an idea-forming tool. You shouldn't fear jumping in and speaking up. In fact, you had better do so, because the action is part of the brilliance of your mind and speech powers at work together.
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I came to this realization some years ago, perhaps because for me, after a lifetime of performing on stage, the connection between thinking and expressed thought was obvious. And I think it had to do with my training and experience performing Shakespeare.
Give Us That Soliloquy. Show Us Your Mind At Work!
I completed my acting training at one of the London acting academies, and have acted in Shakespeare's plays in that city, New York, and other locales. And if you have a lead role in one of the Bard's plays—especially in the tragedies or histories—that means you will be speaking soliloquies.
A soliloquy is what we might call the "outward expression" of a character's thoughts (famous examples are Lady Macbeth's "Out, damned spot," or Hamlet's "To be, or not to be.") They are usually but not always delivered when the character is alone, and they tend to go on for a while. The reason is because the character is thinking out the issue or problem, and for the sake of the drama is sharing those thoughts with us the audience.
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Do you see how this is my thesis in action? — This moment in the play would not exist if the character were not thinking and speaking at the same time. In the hands of an accomplished actor the effect is revelatory, because we hear (and see) the thoughts evolving in real time, as the character thinks and vocalizes them. Soliloquies show us the character's mind at work and the nature of his or her thinking as it unfurls.
That's exactly the result that will occur when you "just start speaking" your contribution in that meeting or panel. TRUST THAT YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE WILL BE AT YOUR SERVICE AND WILL HELP YOU SHINE. In a rather amazing way, your listeners will benefit from hearing your ideas emerge at the same moment you do! Imagine how exciting that is compared to carefully planned (dare we say "canned") remarks.
Your Rocketship's Stages Will Deploy As Needed
So, just jump in and start speaking. (Of course, have that initial germ of an idea first.)
Use this analogy if it helps: when NASA launches a rocket, the stages of pre-ignition, ignition, jettisoning the boosters, rolling to correct the heading, etc., all happen at the exact moment they are required. Your idea—indeed, your contribution—is that rocket. Blast off by joining the conversation, then let your exquisitely designed brain and speech mechanisms deploy as needed.
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. Contact Gary here.