Saturday, June 27, 2009

Find Your Green Room Trigger

In this week's New Yorker, Alex Ross writes about Marlboro Music, an elite summer music program at Marlboro college in Vermont "where artists could forget about commerce and escape into a purely musical realm."

The summer seems to give the musicians a formative and utopian musical experience that carries them through the year:

"One musician after another says the same thing: from September to May, when they sit down to play in an antiseptic postwar performing arts center after an hour or two of rehearsal, they close their eyes and think of Marlboro."

Take a moment and think of a memory, an experience, a place where you felt in the zone. It could be a moment from childhood or an experience you had this week; an athletic or artistic or travel experience - just a moment when you were at your best and everything seemed to click.

Think of a word, a mantra, a motion that represents that experience for you and use it each time before you get up to speak.

I call this the Green Room Trigger. For the musicians in Ross's piece, their summer at Marlboro is that trigger - a memory that enables them to feel present and in the zone - even at potentially disheartening and unfulfilling moments.

From the Green Room: Find your Green Room Trigger - a word, mantra or motion that takes you back to a moment in your life where you were fully present. Then use this trigger before you get up to speak. Over time, this exercise will help you get in zone and be at your best each time you speak.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Today's Vocal Assignment: Read the Three Little Pigs

Recently, I was trying to help a client get his voice "out of the box." I gave him a copy of the Three Little Pigs, and we practiced reading it. This is an especially good story for vocal training.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. The story has different voices. When you read it, try using a different voice and focus for each of the three pigs - and especially for the wolf!

2. The story builds. As the wolf moves from house to house on his rampage of huffing and puffing, practice building from low to high (energy, volume, tempo, etc.).

3. The story has several tone changes. In just a couple of minutes, tones may range from lazy (the first pig) to terror (enter the wolf) to triumph (the third pig's victory). Try exaggerating these tone changes. The more you exaggerate, the more flexibility you will have with your voice.

From the Green Room: Read childrens' books. It's a wonderful way to get your voice "out of the box" and experiment with the full range of your vocal ability.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If You Must Read...

One of the greatest speaking challenges is being able to connect to the audience while reading a prepared script.

Great speakers seem as though they are in conversation with their audience. It is very difficult to do this if you are reading your remarks word for word.

When possible, I recommend using notes or an outline, rather than a script. But of course there are times and occasions when this is simply not possible.

So what is a speaker to do?

Try writing your speech as if you are writing a personal letter to the audience - and read it that way, too.

You might even start your speech, "Dear (audience),"

While you won't actually read that part aloud, writing in a letter format encourages you to be fully present with your audience - and they will respond in kind.

From the Green Room: Need to read from a script? Try writing - and reading - a letter written just for your particular audience. Make eye contact with the individual people you are "writing" to. This will enable you to be present with the people in the room - even if you prepare each word in advance.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When Giving a Short Presentation....

Today I gave a 30-minute presention at the Jewish Communal Service Association's annual conference. The topic? Fearless Public Speaking.

Now how in the world can you possibly hope to teach public speaking in 30 minutes?

A colleague, Barry Bainton gave me some invaluable advice:

Barry suggested that the goal of a short training is not to teach a skill, but rather to persuade the audience that the skill is one worth learning.

There is no way to teach public speaking in such a short amount of time. But in under thirty minutes, I was able to make a clear and compelling case for learning how to be present in front of an audience.

I got great feedback. Thank you, Barry.

From the Green Room: Don't attempt too much in a short amount of time. Set a focused and realistic goal, and stick to it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Avoiding Panel Hell

Why are panel discussions often so dreadfully boring?

After all, isn't it more exciting to listen to four different voices than one?


But most of the time, if it's true that less is more, it's also true that more is less.

Most of the time, the panelists speak for far too long, never engage each other, and (perhaps because they share the spotlight) are not able to engage the audience.

The solution?


Suggest that the moderator bring the panelists together during the planning process so that each can prepare his/her presentation knowing fully what the others are talking about.

In other words, see the panel discussion as one presentation - with four different parts. This will help the audience put it all together and stay focused.

From the Green Room: End panel hell. Bring the presenters together to coordinate an exciting, unified program that flows smoothly from start to finish.