The power of positive speaking

  The more we know how to deal with ourselves at an emotional level, the more we know how to handle an audience. Audiences are full of feelings and emotions, so let's take them into account!

 About the question of how to deal with ourselves when it comes to our emotional and irrational side, the first thing I wish to say is that I am very wary of "positive thinking" 

 All too often those who recommend that we "turn away from negativity and think positively" make me think of parents sending their child off to their room with the instruction to not come back before they have calmed down and managed to get a smile on their face. They are doing this to their "inner child" - to the sensitive and vulnerable part within. 

 When my "inner child" starts moaning, complaining or crying, I think I should listen and understand what's going on. All too often, the raw and awkward expression of so called "negative" thoughts masks a real distress. Only after acknowledging and welcoming do I point out that there are also reasons to be happy, people and events worth smiling at, and I add that the very act of smiling actually creates a good mood and helps muster courage. 
 So positive thinking is not wrong at all... as long as it doesn't blame and dismiss anything negative! (Blaming and dismissing are negative attitudes anyway....) 

 Let's come back to how to deal with audiences, in a similar way.  I'll give you a simple example: I'll always remember this networking event. I was the last speaker before the break. There were no chairs in the big room. Standing up without walking for a long time is difficult, everybody felt pain in their legs! 

When it was my turn to speak, the first thing I said was: "I know everyone feels tired, your legs are painful, I promise I will be short!" 

 I've rarely seen so many smiles lightup at the same time! Taking it from there, I suggested doing some movements, shift the weight from one foot to the other to help bear the fatigue, thanked them for their presence and

attention and complimented them on  their skills (they were all much more knowledgeable than me in matter of business and technology).  I added a good dollop of entertaining energy... and managed to get them to forget the pain and listen to my pitch... 

   The more we treat ourselves and others well, acknowledging what may be difficult and pointing out anything positive we might spot, the more we get audiences on our side! 

 
The next Organic Speaking sessions will happen soon: 
 Sunday the 23rd and Sunday the 30th, from 7pm to 9.15pm (please arrive slightly in advance so that we can start on time) 
in Willesden Green. More details here. 

Thank you for your attention. 
 
Have a good week and a good week end! 

Jean-Marc

 

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 

Starting a Fire is the Purpose

Sometimes we speak as if we believed we had to explain everything. We give as many details or explanations as possible.

This is a mistake. The result is just overloading.

Whether from a stage or across the table, let's keep in mind that starting a fire is the purpose of communication.

 

Confidence Building Tips

Confidence building: tips and thoughts

 

 

You may know the story of this man and his son going to the market on donkey's back to sell their goods. As they are passing through a village, people say:

 

“Look at how these heartless people treat their donkey! The poor animal has to carry all the merchandise, plus the merchant and his son!...”

Ashamed, father and son get off the donkey’s back and walk. In the next village, people laugh at them:

“Look at these two idiots! They have a donkey and they walk next to it! What’s the point of having a donkey then!”

The father thinks they are right and put in son on the donkey’s back. In the next village, people say:

“Look! This vigorous young guy is riding the donkey when his old man has to walk! Isn’t it a disgrace?...”

The son quickly gets off the donkey’s back and let his father takes his places. But soon, other people say:

“What a disgraceful thing to see! The man rides the donkey and let his young son walk! Why having children if you don’t care for them?”

 

Eventually, father and son decide to do just what they think is right and they stop taking people’s opinion into account. From then on, they will feel much better!

 

 

Nowadays, fathers and sons don’t ride donkeys in London’s street, but apart from this detail, not much has changed. Whatever you do, there will always be people to find that something is wrong with you. Building up confidence, whether for public speaking or other social settings, is necessary to maintain our balance and not be overwhelmed by critics and disapprovals.

 

 

  Let me point out just a few things for today:

 

 

1 The story does not emphasize that whatever they do,  there will always be people to be happy with them as well! Wisdom recommends to renounce to be universally approved. However, if we believe in any kind of higher power, we can always ask for blessings, and then look for allies. Who can be around and repeat as much as we need that they believe in us? Let’s focus and listen to these ones rather than the others!

 

2 When on stage, there are almost always one or two friendly, supportive and smiling faces in the audience. We can spot where they are and speak more especially for them. 

3 Let’s not forget that some people listen intently without smiling. Not smiling does not equate with disapproving. I have often been surprised by positive feedback from people who looked stern when listening.

4 Let’s “unplug” our inner critic. We are only sensitive to other people’s disapproval when a part of us agrees with the disapproval. Before getting on stage, or when we meet our reflection in the mirror of a bathroom, let’s have a look at ourselves and say something like:

“I have prepared myself the best I could, I am not perfect however I have something valuable to give! It will be what it will be, let’s go!” Focusing on what we have to give helps taking the focus away from our imperfections.

We can also turn the inner critic against itself. Let’s get our inner critic to ask this question to itself: “Do I criticize beyond what’s efficient to make progress?”

5 Believe in yourself! Do you realize that being just who you are, the way you are is just what other people in your social environment need to meet? Keep this in mind, You are necessary.

6 Building confidence can be compared to stretching muscles. Stretching is good, but forcing ourselves beyond a certain point is not. It is possible and desirable to be kind with ourselves! Let's not go too far out of our comfort zone. A bit a regular and gentle stretching will work wonders. 

7 As the saying goes: “You can eat an elephant one bite at a time” Let’s not forget to congratulate ourselves warmly for every small victory - and no victory is small enough to be “nothing” This will work as powerful positive affirmation.

Also, every now and then, let's look at our past and marvel at all the progress we have already made!

 

 

 Before I leave you, let me tell you a last little story by the psychotherapist and philosopher Paul Watzlawick: he was helping a very very shy student to overcome his shyness. He had to do a presentation for his PhD at the end of the year. The psychotherapist made him start with very small challenges, such as asking “What time is it please?” to strangers… and very small challenge after very small challenge, the student build up his confidence and passed his PhD... You can eat an elephant one bite at a time...

 

 

 

And now, on to updates: as usual, Speed Public Speaking sessions are scheduled every Monday in Clerkenwell from 6.45pm to 9pm in the Apple Tree - 45 Mount Pleasant WC1X 0AE - Closest station Farringdon and every other Thursday (there is one this Thursday) in Willesden Green in the premises of RSL Collective  Unit 1 Queen’s Parade Walm Lane NW2 5HT.

 

 

 

Thanks a lot for your support, your presence and your fantastic testimonies. It’s a wonderful adventure and it wouldn’t happen without you!

Warm wishes

Jean-Marc



The rewards will be great!

Dear known and unknown friends

  I am a sensitive perfectionist. I have a tendency to believe that a good Speed Public Speaking training session can only be a session where the magic operates full time, going crescendo from the beginning to the end. I am a bit deluded. I want peaks without troughs! I don’t like to feel the energy slowing down when it happens. I dread these moments. I feel it’s my fault, I feel I have done a bad job. I have a tendency to be too harsh on myself.

As leader of Speed Public Speaking sessions, I could play safe. I know how to get an audience or a training group on a high and keep it there. Of course, it’s never granted in advance, but there are ways. Let me tell you the recipe: as I keep repeating at the beginning of almost every session, it’s all in the way we deliver our speeches, and the formula is:

  Delivery= Energy + Engagement + Structure.

 Energy comes first. When we jump on stage like a jack out of the box, when we amplify our body language and project our voice powerfully, when we dare taking as much room as we can, we feed the audience with good healthy dynamic energy and everyone enjoys it. Smiles, laughter and excitement quickly happen. It’s a bit challenging for you trainees, but the rewards are immediate. When you feed your audience with good energy, they love you. They send energy back. You dare more…a virtuous circle of energy is on... It’s great fun!

 Second round:  After "Energy"comes "Engagement" It’s all about taking care of the relationship side of the communication process. We make eye contact, greet, thank, compliment the people gathered here in front of us. We are human beings, we love being loved, we need acknowledgement, validation and warm welcomes. Again we give,  they give back the same quality of energy-engagement, multiplied by as many pairs of eyes as they are. This part of the training touches our hearts, and the rewards are immediate as well. We feel warmth, we feel connected…  

 You know what? If I wanted to play safe, we would work on energy and engagement from the beginning to the end of every session. We would spend the whole time freeing ourselves from the emotional straightjackets we have become used to wear in our everyday lives. This feels so good, it’s fun, it’s regenerating!

 But but but… Here we are. Third round. Let’s work on "Structure" now! 
To be clear and memorable, just being ourselves, friendly and full of good energy is not enough. We need a clear structure, for instance an introduction, a development with three distinct parts and obvious transitions between them; A conclusion at the end to recap and call to action… a bit of intellectual focus is required now...

 After freeing ourselves, working on structuring our content might feel as if we had to put on a straightjacket again. This is work. The rewards will be great, but they are not immediate. Just like artists, musicians, sport men or any craftsmen , we need to discipline our efforts with perseverance before being able to get on stage looking as if it was easy… 

 Public speaking is an art. You may not aim at becoming great masters, but even to acquire basic skills, there are efforts to be made. It’s not my fault. It’s life. Sometimes we reach summits, sometimes we open our wings and fly, and sometimes we are confronted with the necessity of making efforts and persevere. These times are not as enjoyable as others, however, they are the moments when we build our strength and strengthen our skills. I would be dishonest if I spared you these moments. 
 
  I love you. Yes, I really enjoy your company. I love listening to your speeches. I wish to see you progress and progress. So let me tell you a last thing: when the energy levels are going down in the middle of a session because of some difficulties to confront, I wish to see you giving more of your own energy, whether as active listeners or as speakers.

You know, those who provide more of their own energy instead of getting disengaged when the dynamism of the group slows down  have learnt one of the most fundamental lesson we need to learn to face an audience and take them with us wherever we want… It’s what leading is about.

 When we reap the fruits of our efforts, we know it was worth it…
 
 Good luck on your journey! Don't forget to sign up to the next sessions in Willesden Green or Clerkenwell. For details visit the What's on sections on http://jeanmarcpierson.com

 See you soon!  

 

Relationship maintenance for speakers

Dear mail list readers, I am happy you exist. What would I be without you? 

 Today’s public speaking tip will be about an essential subject: relationship maintenance. It has been said that training public speaking makes us acquire skills that are also useful to maintain long term relationships. (or to initiate any kind of relationship....) Why is that?

 Any human communication happens at least at two levels. The more obvious is the level of content (what we say) and a less obvious level is the level of the relationship between speaker and listener. This is true whether we speak from a stage to an audience, or to our partners, friends, children, family members, colleagues, shopkeeper etc...

 Let me give an example:  if I say: “I want a black americano with two croissants” in a very neutral tone, I will not induce the same quality of relationship with the waitress as if I said warmly: “Could you give me a black americano with two croissants, please?” In the first case, I take the service for granted, I make her feel that she is there to serve me (and that’s true, it’s her job)   In the second case, I express that I consider the waitress a human being, my equal, and I treat her accordingly: my equals deserve to be asked politely.

 There is not a single communication in which this relationship level doesn't play a role. Most of the time, it is more subtle than in my example, and we aren't really aware of what is going on just under the surface. However it’s always there. Who is dominant, who is welcome and how much, who is valued and how much, who is taken for granted, who is worth paying attention to, who gives orders....are the kinds of relationship subtexts we exchange and sometimes fight for.
 
 If someone does not get our message, it might well be that they actually don’t want to accept the subtext. The other way round, if people welcome and value what we say, it might well be because they are happy to acknowledge the relationship subtext.
 
 Therefore, let’s focus, but not too much. Our content might be clear and important by itself, however, what matters instinctively, for us, human beings, is the relational subtext. Let’s be aware enough of it and smile, make eye contact, compliment, thank, express that we value the attention of our listeners, reassure at times (it won’t be too long, I’m almost finished) so as to maintain the best relationship with our audiences, partners, colleagues, shopkeepers...

 Whatever we have to say will have the best possible reception. I rarely wait long for my Americano and croissants. And when it happens, I understand they have their reasons...

                  London, the 10th of December 2015



 
 The last Speed Public Speaking session for this year will take place tomorrow Friday the 11th, from 7pm to 9pm, at RSL in Willesden Green. Details are here: http://www.meetup.com/Speed-Public-Speaking-in-Willesden-Green/