A few weeks ago my daughter woke up one morning and asked me, “Mommy, what are we doing today?” I told her, “First, we’ll go to the potty.” And before I could get out, “And then…” she asked, “Why?”
And, if you are a parent you know exactly where this is going, she’s asked me, “Why?” after almost everything I’ve told her since.
I love my daughter with every ounce of my being. We share a bond that feels like it’s been cultivated through many lifetimes.
And yet, if I’m to be honest (which is the only thing I know how to be), there’s a lot about mothering a toddler that drives me a little bonkers. Earlier this week I actually made myself a shortlist, knowing that one day I will want to look back on these early years and remember the cuddles, the precious firsts and…all of the moments that felt interminable that somehow I/we got through.
Curious what is on my list? It includes:
- Explaining something half a dozen times.
- Explaining something half a dozen different ways.
- Providing evidence for every statement I make.
- Making every request into a persuasive theatrical performance.
- Practicing new skills with my daughter, endlessly, until she possesses them.
You get the gist.
As I looked back on my list what I realized is that everything on it is something I strive to do in my presentations – and something I strive to teach my clients to do in theirs.
While it’s important to speak with and never down to an audience, we often forget that we need to give our audience an opportunity to hear and experience our ideas half a dozen times in half a dozen ways. We need to curate evidence for our persuasive claims, and use a variety of means to do so.
Some people will respond to a quote. Others to a story. And there are a lot of people who need to see speakers engage with validated research. The best speakers weave in all of the above.
One of the top areas where speakers struggle is with memorization. I hear it from even my most successful speaking clients. “Lex, let’s write out the entire manuscript and then we can work on my delivery.”
As I know really well, children don’t learn how to count from 1-10 by counting from 1-10 over and over again. They learn by being asked to pick a certain number of strawberries out of a container. And then to count out enough pairs of socks to take on a vacation. The asks start small. Once the first few numbers are mastered, then the requests become for larger quantities. But the learning happens by doing the math.
Similarly, speakers master the sequencing of their material by speaking one section at a time of their developing talk out loud – as they simultaneously move around and connect it to their physical movement and gestures. Once they master a paragraph or two, walking and talking as though they are in front of an audience, then they add another few paragraphs. They do a little bit each day, giving their minds and their bodies time to rest and retain.
I have not written down every single word to a presentation I’ve given in a LONG time. I do the work I prescribe to my clients. Pinky swear. And the beautiful thing is that when I do so I commit my words and my mannerisms more concretely to memory than when I approach my rehearsals from a place of “memorization.”
Want some proof?
Watch a short, TED-style talk I recently delivered (based off of the talk I gave at the UN last spring) on the missing ingredient in women’s leadership.
There’s a moment at around 1 minute and 15 seconds where I had a bit of a stutter. I remember thinking on stage, “Hmmm…not sure what’s going to come out of my mouth next.”
But because I wasn’t memorized I found my words pretty quickly and continued on my way.
As you’ll be able to see in the speech, I’m incredibly passionate about designing communication and leadership training that is holistic, experiential and facilitates real-world results. It’s why I lead the Las Vegas-based Influencer Academy women’s leadership program.
My legacy lives on in the women and men who I empower to step into their moxie…who use their speaking and writing to illuminate the issues that matter deeply to them.
Regina Bailey, a student/mentee/dear friend of mine is hosting a screening of a new documentary, Embrace. It demystifies why poor body image has become a global epidemic for women. And more importantly, what we all can do to co-create a society that does not sexualize girls and women in the media, that does not portray unrealistic body images, and that makes all of us think about what we love about our bodies (rather than reinforces our insecurities about them).
If you are in Las Vegas, you can join Regina and me for a one-night showing of this documentary on September 19 at 7:30pm. Purchase advanced tickets for you and your girlfriends here.