How to extend the range of our expressive skills

 Hello! Thank you for being here!

 When rehearsing, let’s experience alternative ways of doing everything. Let’s experiment walking differently, speaking with a higher or lower pitch, sitting if we usually stand up, hands behind our back or on our head if it’s something we never do, speaking louder or whispering, or whatever we can become aware of... in order to extend the range of our expressive skills.

One day, I was leading a Speed Public Session and suggesting to the speakers that they change different aspects of their deliveries, as I often do. To someone who speaks quickly I ask that they speak slowly, with pauses after all the important words; To the one who hesitates or gives too many details, I suggest that they speak twice as quickly. To the one who looks a bit stuck I suggest that they speak and walk to occupy the whole stage, but to the one who moves too much in a nervous and distracting way I ask that he “nails his feet into the ground”; I also like to ask speakers to exaggerate as if they were clowns. Very often, those who are asked to play the clown, but they become more animated... and everyone in the group can tell them that their delivery has become much better as a result!

Sometimes, the speaker who is asked to play the clown really does, and we all have a good laugh. When this happens, the speaker can experience how good it feels to make people so happy that they laugh! After this, finding the middle way between being too reserved and utter clowning becomes child play...

One day, a young woman exclaimed: “But can’t we be just who we are and speak!”

I said that being “just who we are” was impossible. It was not the best answer I could have found, I was a bit taken aback. I meant that being just who we are can’t be expressed directly without communication techniques.

I’ll try and give a better answer now.

Being “just who we are” is not impossible at all, it’s rather the opposite. We are just who we are, whether we sleep or are awake, whether we communicate efficiently or stay quiet in a corner, we are who we are all the time. But who are we? That’s quite difficult to say!

However, what is easier to say is what we are not. We are not our usual mannerisms; we are not our usual way of moving or speaking. Between the deep mystery of what we really think and feel deep inside, and the other people in the world out there, is a gap. Bridging this gap is exactly what we do when honing our communication skills. We are not our skills. A carpenter is not his hammer and nails.

The way we walk in the street or on stage might reflect our personality, but it’s just a reflection, it is not us. This reflection can be changed and improved. Working on the “bridge over the gap” is how to get a chance to become able to express “who we really are”

I hope you love philosophy! For now, let’s come back to more technical considerations. When we rehearse a speech at home or train in a session, let’s change our mannerisms, if only a little bit. On my way home, thinking about writing this newsletter, I changed my gait. I tried a bit more slowly, then I tried a kind of “relaxed, dancing style” and I realized that I could conjure up a different feeling than “walking as usual”

Awareness is often enough to find out how to do better, without needing detailed explanations.

So, when we are on our own, let’s try and change everything a little bit. Let’s change the way we walk, the pitch of our voice, the speed at which we speak, the movements of our hands and even the way we think if we can!

Whatever we can become more aware of we can change. Experimenting with this will bring about great improvements in our communication skills... 

 (and attending regularly Speed Public Speaking Sessions also do! Check out our next meeting here

 See you soon!

 Jean-Marc Pierson

 Raconteur, Gardener, Philosopher