Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Getting in the Green Room - The Zen of Surfing and Speaking

I originally decided to call my company Green Room Speakers because of its theater definition:

From Wikipedia:

A green room is a room in a theater, studio, or other public venue for the accommodation of performers or speakers when not required on the stage.

In other words, the green room is a place for performers to prepare before they get on stage.

Yet I recently learned that green room has a second definition.

In surfing, the green room is the inside of a barrel that is produced by a wave. This term was coined due to the color of light reflected into the barrel.

This moment of being inside the barrel of the wave is described as the ultimate zen surfing experience.

The Utne reader just published an article called The Zen of Surfing. The article describes how understanding the wave is the key to enjoying it:

If you understand the wave and how it moves, you don't have to be afraid of it (or at the very least, you can be less afraid). After all, when you break a wave down to its basic nature, it is just cycling energy moving through water. When the conditions are right, when the water is shallow enough, the wave is born.

When I realized this on an experiential level, the waves lost their ability to paralyze me. I began to see through them and enjoy riding them.... And when a beautiful wave comes,... we can catch it, maybe even get inside the hollow tube and see its beautiful emptiness.

This is what it means to be inside the Green Room.

At Green Room Speakers, I help my clients learn now to master their anxiety and get in the zone - the green room - each time they get up to speak. For many speakers, the experience of being in the green room is one of pure connection to the audience.

This is a learned skill and one we can all cultivate.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Patrick Swayze Taught Us About the Art of Public Speaking

A great speech coach once gave me the following advice:

Try practicing your entire speech without once moving your head.

Not easy.

This is the way Patrick Swayze danced.

Look at the closing scene from Dirty Dancing. His body moves in perfect rhythm. He is beyond sexy. And his head remains absolutely still.

This enables him to maintain full eye contact with Jennifer Grey - and is, I believe, the secret to what makes this scene so riveting and so memorable.

From the Green Room: To master the art of public speaking, as you make eye contact with individuals in your audience, try keeping your head as still as possible.

Thank you Patrick Swayze.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Inspiration from Steve Jobs

Given Steve Jobs' return to work last week after a 5-month medical leave following his liver transplant, there's no better time than now to go back and listen to Jobs' 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

I first heard the speech three years ago, when I had just gotten into this work. It continues to be a source of inspiration to me:

Jobs speaks powerfully about the vital importance of loving what you do.

I believe this lesson can be applied even if you are not "in love" with your work - or with your presentation topic.

In other words. even if you are given the task of delivering speak on an inherently dull, dry, loveless, or otherwise miserable subject, strive to connect it to something you care about. For some, this is an impossible task - yet even the effort of trying will make a difference.

The more you can find reasons to care about your content - and about the people who are listening to you - the stronger your presentation will be.

From the Green Room: Each time you speak, try to connect your content to something you really care about. And if you find yourself feeling utterly uninspired, watch Steve Jobs' commencement speech, again.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Be a Starfish Speaker

One day this summer, while walking with my family on the Santa Barbara pier, my son excitedly pointed out to me a large starfish floating in the water.

We talked that day about the starfish's amazing powers of regeneration. We couldn't help but wonder, wouldn't it be great if people also could grow back lost limbs?

But then it occured to me that in a metaphorical sense, we can!

Many of my clients express anxiety that they will forget part of their speech and that this will get them off track and ultimately ruin the whole speech.

To address this anxiety, perhaps we can learn a thing or two from the starfish.

You see, most starfish are able to regenerate limbs only if they have their central body intact.

Next time you prepare your content and each and every time you practice your speech, first review the central message of your presentation. You should be able to state this in no more than one sentence.

Then if you "lose a limb" during your speech (i.e. forget a point, lose track of your direction, etc.), as long as you return to your central message, you can always regenerate that portion of your presentation. It may not look exactly the way it did before, but it will get your point across.

From the Green Room: Visualize your presentation as a starfish. Your central message is the middle and your main points radiate our from there. If you get off track, just return back to the center.