How to prepare for Public Speaking

It's a household word: - preparation is key. But how do we prepare ourselves? 

The first thing I want to say is - we have to find out what works best for ourselves. Whatever I will say might be relevant to you now - or not - so just pick up what helps and forget about the rest! 


 
A long time ago, when I was just beginning to get on stage to tell stories, I was very nervous. So I learned by heart, at "Happy Birthday" level. 
When you sing "Happy Birthday..." you know the lyrics so well that you can sing and do other things at the same time - like filming the birthday girl blowing out the candles, waving at a latecomer, etc - without losing the thread.  

To learn that well costs time and energy. 

The good news is that if we have written down the text, it represents our logic and style so it is easier to remember. 

Learning by searching actively for connections between the different elements of our speech is the way adults learn best. Children have a strong automatic memory, but adults need to structure mentally to improve their memory performances.

In the writing process, the first draft usually becomes much better after cutting out about half of it. For instance, in this newsletter's first draft, the previous sentence was followed by a full paragraph of explanations!
 
Of course, the speech needs to be well-structured, with a single and clear purpose and obvious transitions between its parts.
 
A general principle is: 
1. Introduction: Tell them what you are going to tell them
2. Development: Tell them
3. Conclusion: Remind them of what you have just told them

So I invested a lot of time and energy in getting to know my stories at Happy Birthday level, and I knew not only my text, but my intonations, my silences, when I would make a face, etc.

And thanks to all this hard work, I accumulated success and felt more and more confident.

But then I met purists of the art of story telling who said: "What you do is not real story telling! You shouldn't say anything by heart! A real story teller knows the general structure of his story and improvises the details as he goes along!" 

This concept can also apply to public speaking, especially when we don't have enough time to prepare at Happy Birthday level (as they would ask us to do if it was a TED talk).

When we know our subject well enough to trust ourselves - and when we have had enough experience of public speaking to know we can handle our nerves - we can take more risks and succeed. 

I have done a few speeches recently without writing anything apart from a general structure made up of key words. 

I rehearsed in my head waking up in the morning or walking in the street. I started to prepare one or two weeks in advance - so that new ideas or better ways to express them could come up.

Once on stage, I had just a few notes at hand as a safety net but I didn't use them and I improvised, knowing only a simple structure by heart. 

In music that's what jazz musicians do. 

This way allows you to give a conversational tone to the speech and to answer questions as you go along. The result might be a little bit messier but it's also livelier.

I love rehearsing mentally and this leads me to one last big point - you should love giving the speech in your imagination. 

Audiences feel how we feel when we speak and if we love talking to them, they will love being talked to!  



 Updates: The next Organic Speaking workshops in Willesden Green (North West London) are scheduled on Sundays evening, every other week, possibly more according to demand. There are a few free tickets to grab. (First timers only) Find out here 

 See you there, with great pleasure! 

 Jean-Marc Pierson 

Prepare for the worse, prepare for the best

My grandfather once told me a joke which is the perfect illustration of how crucial our mindset can be:  

 

A man was driving in the countryside when one of the tyres of his car went flat. As he set out to change it, he realized he had no jack. He decided to walk to the next village to ask  the local garage to lend him one. But on his way, he started to worry:  

“Maybe the garage owner won’t want to lend me a jack” thought the man “I am just a stranger in this area. Maybe he won’t trust me. Or maybe he will take advantage of the situation and refuse to lend me a jack so that I have no choice but to pay him a fortune for him to come with the tow truck…..” And on and on, so much so that when he arrived at the garage, he opened the door, shouted at the puzzled owner : “You can keep your  (censored).... jack, I will manage without it!” and slammed the door behind him as he went away....

When we are nervous at the prospect of public speaking, we are this guy with his flat tyre. How can we prepare ourselves?  

The stoic philosophers advised their followers to brace themselves for the worse. They thought the worse doesn’t hit as hard if we expect it. This seems to contradict the point I have been making up till now, but think about it: if the guy with his flat tyre problem had been really prepared to face being turned down, he would have kept calm. He would have asked without expecting much, and if the garage owner had lent him a jack, he would have been agreeably surprised! So there is a difference between bracing ourselves for the worst case scenario and getting caught in a spiral of worry… 

 

When we are going to speak, let’s remember that whatever happens, we will survive. Maybe we are going to be misunderstood or even judged in a negative way… and then? Trust me, trust yourself. We are so much stronger than we think. 

   Let's face our fear of what may happen. Remember: the scary monsters we dread often exist in our imagination only and can be deflated by a sharp conscious look!   

Now, it is very important to be prepared for the best as well. The best has a tendency to happen more frequently when we are prepared for it. Let's dare imagine success... 

 What if they love us so much that they give a standing ovation? What if we get loads and loads of compliments after the speech? This might be quite unsettling as well! We need a bit of mental preparation: 

 When we receive compliments, declarations of love, admiration or such things, the best way to react is simplicity. Let’s not answer that no, we weren’t that great ... No no no! When people give compliments they don’t want to be contradicted! They want us to be happy to hear that we were so great. The best answer is a simple thank you.  

 It would also be very awkward to take advantage of the moment to boast and keep talking about ourselves. After saying that we are touched by the compliment and that we really appreciate it, good manners are to show interest in the complimenter, if only for a short while.  

In any case, preparation is key… Are you ready to enjoy a big round of applause?   

 

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A few updates  

 

I am going to talk at Google Campus in the city, on the 15th of June. The headline is “Start up Stage Fright Public Speaking Top Tips” It’s a free event with networking times, you can book your ticket here 

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Emotional Intelligence: We are working on it!


Before, we believed that we needed to be clever to succeed and that clever people had high IQs. (Intelligence Quotient, as measured by the IQ test) In reality, many people with average IQs outperform people with high IQs in many areas of life, such as career, relationships and anything involving dealing with other people.

 

The missing link is called “Emotional intelligence”... and this is something we are working on in Organic Speaking sessions.

Standing up in front of a group and speaking is mostly a question of overcoming the emotions that get in the way. Once we feel confident, we realize that speaking and being expressive are skills we have had since we learned them during the first years of our lives! 

In the following story. the scientific experiment with the dog and the hen is something I've read about when I studied psychology. I've added an imaginary character: Elsa, the little daughter of the scientist.  

 

 

I leave to you to sort out why and how this story is relevant to us when we train our public speaking skills, build our confidence and improve our communication skills…

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Scientists doing research about intelligence conducted the following experiment:

They put a dog behind a wire mesh barrier and a juicy attractive piece of meat on the other side. This barrier was straight and not very long. The scientists noticed that it did not take long for the dog to get around the barrier and take hold of the meat.

 

Elsa, five years old, daughter of the leader of the scientific team, thinks that her father should play with her rather than with a dog.

 

Then, the scientists renew the protocol with a chicken and juicy attractive grain of corn. They notice with great interest that the chicken, instead of running around the mesh barrier, collides with it again and again in a vain attempt to reach the object of its desire. The poor bird nearly strangles itself by pushing its head through a hole in the mesh but it’s not going to eat. The scientific team concludes that the dog is more intelligent that the chicken.

 

Elsa is not far from hitting her head against a wall. That her father prefers a dog to her was difficult to accept but somehow understandable. Dogs are cheerful and friendly creatures. But being set aside for a chicken is absolutely humiliating.

 

The scientists now proceed once more with the same experiment, with a starving dog and meat. There is always a cruel moment in scientific experiments involving dogs. They notice, with excitement, that the starving dog has become so to speak, as stupid as a chicken. It collides with the mesh again and again, obviously unable to move away from the object of its longing.

 

Elsa is in love with her father. She firmly believes that they will get married as soon as...  next week. They will sleep together (which in her mind, means sleep) and they will have plenty of children. But he will have to stop these crazy games with animals.

 

How can one stop starving in order to be able to eat? Elsa sets the dog free. It catches the chicken and runs away. Elsa is sent to bed without any supper.

 

 Her father is a great scientist. He understands nothing.

 

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 A few comments (I said I would leave you to it, but I can't help it!)  

 

-When we are in a state of nervousness, we become like the starved dog, unable to see the obvious solution to our problems...  We need to become stronger, and to cultivate detachment to overcome this issue. 

-Because even the most apparently adult people are still a little bit childlike inside, those who are able to make people's "inner children" happy are the emotionally intelligent people. They will get the jobs, the promotions or the relationships they wish for…

 

- A last but not least  thing: emotional intelligence is not only about “understanding”. It is also a question of strength, of self knowledge and experience. No amount of reading will never ever be enough. We need to pracise, practise, practise….

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 Thank you! Don't hesitate to leave comments, share and subscribe to the newsletter to get more to read directly in your inbox! Cheers.

 

Be Humble like a Lion

Be humble like a lion! Or even a dragon! It sounds like an oxymoron... Lions are symbols or pride, not of humility! 


 But just think about it... humility is NOT about behaving as if we are smaller than we really are. Humility is about not pretending. 

 

 A famous Buddhist story goes like this: Once an orphaned lion cub was adopted by a shepherd and brought up among sheep. As a result of this, the lion bleated like a sheep, ate grass and was scared by anything. It simply believed it was a sheep itself. But one day, this lion saw its reflection mirrored in water. It roared, left the shepherd and the sheep and lived as a lion ever after. 

 

 It must have taken a lot of humility for this lion to become the lion, don't you think so?  If we suddenly realized that we had been living like a sheep for so much time when we were actually a lion, we might well feel very ashamed of ourselves when meeting other lions. Maybe we wouldn't dare to roar at all... 

 

Once we accept we might well be a lion after all, it is difficult to keep up appearances. Having trained for life as a sheep, our first steps as a lion will probably not be the most glorious ever... We could be the best among sheep, and we found ourselves the black sheep of the lion tribe. The black lion. Well you see what I mean. The one with obvious flaws (or at least we would feel like that...) 

 

 With humility we can become a small lion and live like a lion among lions. Humility is about roaring anyway. It's about laughing rather than freezing when we are not as good as we wished we were. It's getting rid of the burden of keeping up appearances and accepting to be still learning, still struggling with difficulties, and thinking: "That's OK!"

 With humility, we are not humiliated. 

 With pride we would just remain the bigger sheep of the herd... 

 

 To build up our confidence, let's start with the mindset. The more we accept our imperfections, the easier it becomes to roar, speak, laugh out loud, go on a date, have fun, join a new social circle...  

 

 Let's be happy and roar! 

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 And now, on to the second section of this newsletter:    

Speed Public Speaking is no more. Our public speaking club is now called Organic Speaking! 

  ...and the main line has become: build up confidence, improve communication skills, and express yourself!

 

 Why? ... 

 

 - It sounds more like me! I am a performing artist, a story teller, a bit of a philosopher and not someone from the corporate environment. My values are ethics, environment, spirituality, personal development... 

 

 - The word "Speed" started to annoy me, when I would rather claim "Let's slow down!"  

 

 - I love helping people. I am really passionate about communication and expressing oneself. These are skills for life.  There is much more to what I have to give than just being able to do a proper presentation at work or a best man speech. (However I can still help you with that!) 

 

 - Organic growth is healthy growth. 

 

 - Organic Speaking is about becoming who we really are and expressing it.

This is the root of success in life, at work, in love, with children, from a stage and in any area of social life... including making presentation, if you really want that! 

 

 

We will still practice standing up in front of the group and speaking. The format of the sessions remains the same. The new name is simply needed to express what we are already doing more accurately. 

 

 

 Thank you for your fidelity! 

 

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 Updates and how to win free sessions.

 

 To win free sessions... bring guests! It shouldn't be too difficult given that first timers are still welcome for a non-compulsory voluntary donation. Each time you bring two first timers, you get a free session. I need your help to grow organically...