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.

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