Wednesday, January 14, 2015

To merely speak is the easier proposition,
to persuade is divine...

The phrase "public speaking" seems to limit the purpose of its true intention.  To say "public speaking" sounds like all you are attempting to do is speak publicly about 'public' things.  And sometimes, that is all there is.  It can be exciting if the speaker is excited, or the speaker is attached to some cause that has already gained momentum, and/or the crowd is geared up for the celebrity of the speaker and the speaker's issue.

The dark horse is that as public as public speaking is, along with all its necessary and trainable physical, vocal and speech requirements, it also most definitely needs to be and feel private, catered to the individual and one-on-one connections.  When the curtain goes up in a theatre, the house lights go down and the characters introduce...something, the beginning of their day or evening or are in the middle of a conversation.  One of the questions playwrights wrestle with in developing their play is "Why today?  Why these people and why now?" I must feel, as an audience member, that I alone am peeping into a private moment that is happening right now, for the first time, before my very eyes.  In public speaking, the audience needs to know very quickly, "Why am I here? Why now? Why you and what's this? Why are you speaking TO ME about it?"  Your "story" must allow me to empathize, envision and share a journey with you at that moment as if you, the speaker, was having the trip for the first time as well.

Public speaking, at its best, is storytelling with a great beginning to draw them in, a middle that's focused, precise, climactic and contains what your Powerpoint cannot possibly convey and your ending must land with the humility of discovery and admiration by you of your product or cause.  And we will no longer be in public...we will hear you one on one on one...

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Zen of StoryTelling

Zen (noun):

1. school of Mahayana Buddhism that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition

2. An approach to an activity, skill, or subject that emphasizes simplicity and intuition rather than conventional thinking or fixation on goals.

       Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by
       improvisation or embellishment.

In certain forms of Zen meditation, one tries to let the stream of thoughts arise and pass without judgment – like twigs passing in a stream. You try not to let any one thought hinder your concentration or intention; you simply let it appear, and then let it go.  That is the process you want to immerse yourself in as you create your story for it will manifest as your authentic self in its narration.  As if you relive it, not speechify or merely present it.  Therefore, you are not just concerned with goals: the writing of the speech, the memorization of the copy, the stats of the product or point you are selling, the sweat trickling down your underarms from the nerves.  It is relying on knowledge you already have regarding your business and the desire to touch someone with the humanity of the moments you can string together, naturally and honestly, to connect your business TO your audience.  There are specific tools, prompts and exercises to achieve this, no mystery or spiritual conversions involved.  It is what an actor does with his/her physicality, speech and focus on the story he/she is commissioned to tell. The highest form of compliment given to an actor is "I didn't see the work...".  This means that all the physical and mental preparation the actor has done is invisible and all that is seen, heard and experienced are honest moments in real time.  That is the ultimate goal of any speaker.