Sure, you want to speak well. But are you too concerned with performance? Here's how to get your ideas across to listeners more powerfully.
Among the most valuable aspects of public speaking training is that it's hands-on and practical. Not too many theories, and just a few proven principles.
Perhaps best of all, it's intuitive and simple stuff. Definitely not rocket science. (Don't listen to that aeronautical engineer client I once had who said, "You're right . . . it's harder than rocket science!")
Good platform skills should be easy yet powerful.
After all, good speaking is always about connecting with the audience. To learn how, get my Free resource, "Great Speaking? It's About Performance Over Content."
But can you overdo it, focusing on delivery skills so much that your performance actually suffers? Yes, you can. Let's look at one way you may be creating some choppy conditions for yourself in what otherwise should be smooth sailing.
From the Heart, the Mouth Speaks (in That Order)
That saying is from the Bible (minus the phrase in parentheses). It means that from the fullness of thought and emotion, comes the expression of both. That is to say, it's not perfect diction or smoothness of delivery that matters when we speak. Instead, it's the essence of what we mean to say, which emerges when we can't hold it in any longer.
Doesn't it make sense, therefore, that what matters is our ability to help listeners understand, not being known as "an excellent speaker"? Yet we make that mistake all the time, focusing on how we can deliver content as flawlessly as possible. That can definitely place us in the wrong type of relationship, so that we're interacting with the content rather than the audience.
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The result is that we stumble vocally or in other aspects of our performance, as we try to combine perfectly prepared material with our only too human communication skills. Believe me, having a conversation with people who share your interest in something is infinitely easier!
That's why conveying each idea to listeners is always the task at hand, not trying to achieve performance excellence. It's this very issue that I ran across in working with a client recently.
You Can't Think and Speak at the Same Time
This time the quote isn't from the Good Book, but the immortal Yogi Berra. Yogi was a Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, famous for his malapropisms. One of the things he said that was spot-on, however, was: "You can't think and hit at the same time."
What he meant was, you need to stay 100% focused on the pitch coming your way from the major league pitcher you're facing—a monumental task. You can't be concerned with your batting average for the season to date, whether you're in the running for the MVP, or even the mundane worries of a professional athlete. "See the ball, hit the ball," needs to be your mantra.
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You're in the same ballpark when you're delivering a speech, presentation, or the like. There's no time or bandwidth (to update Yogi) to focus on your performance. To do so, in fact, is seriously to diminish your ability to perform!
In my client's case, it was his vocal delivery that suffered as he spoke, paradoxically because he was trying so hard to be vocally perfect. So his speech became choppy, leading listeners (in his boss's view), to become disengaged. My suggestion to him was, "Concentrate on the wholeness of the idea you're trying to get across, the fullness of it as it develops." And, as important for him or you, don't get trapped in the sentence structure of a talk you've written out. Written communication and speech are two different animals, and they don't sound alike!
The skill involved is to grasp the idea firmly—again, the complete idea from start to finish—and say it to the audience. Don't worry about whether that involves your uttering a three-word phrase or three sentences written out. You will achieve flow and comprehension in the listeners' minds. As long as they have an interest in that idea, you'll have their full engagement as well. You'll achieve the kind of performance any speaker would be proud of.
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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 2020 for the seventh 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 latest book is The Online Meetings Handbook, now available at The Genard Method and at Amazon. To know more about TGM's services, Contact Gary here.