Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Speaking Lesson from Elmo

Listen to this NPR interview with Kevin Clash, the man behind Elmo:

About six minutes into the interview, Terry Gross asks Elmo what he has to do to remain invisible, especially when kids come into the studio.

He responds:

"They really don't look at me when they see Elmo. They run to Elmo because it's a friend of
theirs that they've been talking to and communicating with and singing with for so many years. We've found that the delusion is not broken by seeing us puppeteers. They see the characters in front of them. ... I get humbled by it all the time. The things that they tell Elmo, the expression on their face when they see their friend."

As a puppeteer, Clash connects with his audience by making himself invisible - by being someone Elmo. On one hand, making yourself invisible is the opposite of what you need to do as a speaker. You need to reveal yourself in order to connect to the audience.

On the other hand, there is a powerful speaking lesson here. By removing himself from the picture, Clash is able to be fully generous and present with his audience.

As a speaker, self-consciousness inhibits presence. When we are too aware of ourselves, we fail to be fully present with the audience - and we get nervous.

By focusing on the audience - by being generous - we are able to give the audience the full gift of our presence.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Be Generous

This is a great time of year to talk about generosity - one of the most powerful qualities a speaker can possess.

How do you feel when someone tries to sell you something?

At best, you may feel compelled to buy it.
At worst, you may feel manipulated, annoyed, and even violated.
But you almost never feel a true sense of connection with the seller.

Now, how do you feel when someone gives you a gift?

At worst, you may feel disappointed not to have gotten something better.
At best, you feel terrific.
And almost always, you feel grateful.

From the Green Room: Speak with generosity. Remember you are giving the audience a gift - not making a sales pitch. This subtle change in attitude makes can make enormous difference in how you approach your audience - and in how you are received.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Even to an Audience of One: Speaking Lesson from the Muppets

It happens to the best of us.

You prepare a super presentation - and no one shows up. Wait it gets worse. If absolutely nobody showed, you could at least call it a day and go home.

But one person comes. And you have no choice but to stay and give the presentation.

It happened to the Muppets.

In the 2011 movie, the Muppets have to put on the show of their lives - and only one person shows up to watch - Hobo Joe.

So what do they do?

They perform as if there were millions watching. And what happens? Eventually, millions tune in.

From the Green Room: Aim to be at your best every time you get up to speak - even if only one person shows up. You never know where that can lead.

Nancy Duarte - The Shape a Great Presentation

Listen to this inspiring TED talk given by Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations:

Duarte explains that great presentations share the same basic shape - a movement between what is and what could be. She analyzes Steve Jobs' iPhone launch keynote and MLK's I Have a Dream peech - and demonstrates how - in very different ways - both speeches share that up-down shape.

While I find her analysis fascinating, what interested me even more was her ultimate takeaway: This is the shape of overcoming obstacles. By moving back and forth from what is to what could be, the speaker enables the audience to move past the resistance of the present reality - and into the possibilities for the future.