Posts tagged with ‘speaking’

04 mar

The King and I

SaskiaShakinAt the Oscars show this year, it came as no surprise to me that The King’s Speech won four little gold bald guys. What did surprise me was the fact that a movie was made about my line of work. Aside from Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, I don’t know of another character who comes close to portraying what I have done for a living over the past 30 years.

Let me be clear: I am not a speech therapist. But I do coach people to give speeches, talks, interviews, media appearances, and all manner of utterances where they are expected to shine and to express something unique about themselves.

I am known as The Keynote Coach. And as such, like the creators of The King’s Speech, I have found a lot of drama, intrigue, and joy helping people figure out what is of value to them and, therefore, of value to their audience.

In my surprising career, I have constantly been amazed that even the best of speakers often quake at the thought of addressing an audience. Why should this be?

I have finally come to the conclusion that we all quake at the thought of taking the podium because we think we will be judged and that the judgment will not be in our favor. That’s when performance anxiety takes hold and questions like the following come up:

“What right have I to claim the stage?”
“Why would anyone want to listen to me?”
“What do I know that isn’t obvious already?”
“What do I have to say that is newsworthy … interesting … meaningful?”

Our cranky critic sits upon our shoulder wagging a finger at our every word, nay saying every thought, making us feel stupid, incapable, unconfident, and mirthless.

I have also concluded that the solution to our worst fears is not a laundry list of tips & tricks that might boost our confidence. For those would only be band-aids on an open wound.

We fear the spotlight not because of the number of people facing us; we fear the spotlight because we have not faced ourselves…our own demons whispering sweet nothings in our ear. For they are sweet nothings – devoid of substance, devoid of threat once we take the time to look within instead of without.

Most people preparing to address a group are consumed with:

“What will they think of me?” Instead, we should be asking:

“What do I think is of value?”
“Why am I passionate about this?”
“Why should they care about my words?”
“How can my thoughts inspire (me, and then, my listeners)?”

Most of us go to the podium seeking perfection. That is wrong. What I suggest to my clients is to forget perfection and seek connection. When we are at our most authentic, that is when we will commune with our listeners. When we can afford to be vulnerable, that is when we will connect. Audiences may admire perfection but they relate to our humanity more than to our false persona.

No one is perfect, and on some subliminal level we all know this. So when speakers get real, when they speak their truth, they give us permission to do the same. Heart to heart is where the real connection happens. And The King’s Speech moves us precisely because it is so real, so vulnerable, so authentic.

When we embrace authenticity, we shine. We cannot help it – for only then does our cranky critic know he is licked.

So know that before you can connect to an audience you must connect to yourself – whether you are a king or a commoner. It is a lesson that King George VI had to learn, that Princess Diana had to learn, and that you have to learn as well. But don’t hesitate to do so; you’ll be in excellent company!

Know too, that when you find your voice, no audience will feel daunting. For you then approach the stage knowing that it is your authenticity that makes you unique. And no one, not king, not foe, not boss, not critic can take that away from you.

Saskia Shakin

Author, More Than Words Can Say: The Making of Inspired Speakers

Saskia is available for interviews, media appearances & as a keynote speaker.

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Posted by Saskia Shakin on March 4th, 2011 in General, Uncategorized | No comments Read related posts in ,