One of my favorite cinematic moments is in The King’s Speech when Colin Firth, playing the role of Albert, the Duke of York (and future king), curses during an emotional session with his speech therapist Lionel, played by Geoffrey Rush. In the scene, Lionel has pushed Albert to talk about his childhood in hopes of getting to the source of what life events may have triggered the onset of his stutter. Albert shares how he was terrified of his father, that his parents were both emotionally cold towards him, that he had to wear leg braces to straighten his deformed legs, and as Lionel pushes him to go more and more deeply into his story, Albert (or Bertie) yells and curses as the emotion of it all overtakes him.
While many speech pathologists would argue that speech impediments are not environmentally produced, the moment was profound for me, so much so that I am in tears just typing my memories of it. For I felt that like Bertie I too was breaking through the first time I watched this scene. It was the first time I realized that my life had been one long on again, off again, on again, more often than not off again relationship to my own voice. Like Bertie, my speech (and a variety of strange and unpleasant physiological issues) began around 4 or 5 years of age, in my case shortly after speaking up and out about the sexual abuse I’d been experiencing. The first time I gave a speech, while wearing headgear 4 or 5 years later, I was laughed at. And the shame from being vulnerable in front of an audience that I felt rejected by stayed with me for years. It showed up in my extra L’s and S’s when I spoke. It bubbled up at the beginning of sentences when my voice would quaver. And it even manifested in my body, which shook whenever I felt people were really looking at me, seeing all of me, when I presented my ideas in small and larger groups.
Watching the movie, not only did I begin to feel some deep healing and self-forgiveness take place, I also thought for the first time, “I want to do for others what Lionel did for the future king.” As a career coach at the time, I was no stranger to supporting my clients to resurrect stories from their past and reframe their obstacles into opportunities. Having spoken and trained throughout much of my early career (with varying degrees of success) as well as accidentally falling into a college public speaking teaching position, I also was no stranger to creating presentations. I just had never previously seen any of the work I did as my soul’s work. As my “why.” And in 2010, in a dark movie theater, I finally had a deep pull towards the work I recognized I was being called to do…even though it would take me another couple of years to figure out how to take action on my “aha.”
While there are many reasons leaders, entrepreneurs, authors, healers and creatives want to speak, one of the chief ones is that they (you) want to feel like what has been lived through and what has been learned matters. That it can embolden the people around you to live (or work) bigger. More purposefully. And yet, for most people, when they begin to sculpt their material—or even get on stage—how they curate and present their speaking material often feels very disconnected from the thoughts and feelings that birthed their desire to speak in the first place. And as a result, they (perhaps you?) don’t truly connect with, wow or transform an audience.
Whether you are regularly speaking before audiences or just beginning to get comfortable with the idea of seeing yourself on stage, ask yourself, What in my life has prepared me to get on stage and share my idea(s) with my audience? And just to be clear, I’m not just talking about the experiences you would normally list on a resume or in a bio or LinkedIn profile. Rather, What are the big, often times difficult moments and life events where you learned something fundamental about your humanity that you MUST speak about? That, my precious reader, is the stuff that heart-opening, provocative, transformative talks are built on.
Then, it’s important that you allow the emotion that comes up when you answer questions such as these to inform the material you create to share with your audience. Resist the temptation to sanitize the emotion or to put key details of the struggle or the success into gray-scale. No matter how brilliant the topic or idea you are sharing, if your audience is going to do anything with your content, they need to connect to the fullest expression of your experience – they need to see and feel your fear, your happiness, your anger and your embarrassment.
It’s not difficult to find the education and resources to patch together a pretty decent presentation. But logic, and even cleverness, that’s just not enough to reward an audience with. Your audience, they want you raw and untethered. Provocative and unpredictable. Rehearsed and yet not totally refined. And this is the stuff that I adore showing speakers how to do.
On Monday, November 30, 2015, at 10:30am pacific I’m hosting my master class, Activate Your “Secret Sauce” as a Speaker. I’ll be on camera, showing you exactly how to:
- Play nicely with the sensation that comes up when you think about sharing your message on stage
- Find the idea(s) you want to be known for in the world and develop soul-stirring keynotes and talks around them
- Make speaking transformational for your audience (and profitable for you!)
- Identify high-quality speaking opportunities (and leverage existing speaking opportunities to book more!)
Whether you are just looking to get started with speaking, or you know that you are ready, once and for all, to find your way to speak with your audience and more effectively integrate your enthusiasm for your content with a gutsy call to action, do what you have to do to join me live for this training.
For my American readers, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Take time to be present with (and grateful for) your family and friends—and also to relax, be quiet, and to let your stories speak.