Surrendering to Speaking...
Many people will tell you to prepare in depth for a speaking gig. Some write out their words in minute detail, others use bullet points, others just a few words. Many rehearse, rehearse and rehearse, again and again to set timings and delivery. I’ve used methods like these for years in my speaking profession, but lately I’ve begun to let go and surrender to my instincts.
I’m not a great reader or believer in many business or lifestyle books, but life has been very up and down for me as of late. One evening I was chatting with a good friend overseas who recommended I read ‘The Surrender Experiment’ by Michael A. Singer. It tells the story of a 1970’s hippy who takes up yoga, buys a small piece of land and by surrendering to the world and his path in life, builds one of Americas largest Medical IT Companies, whilst maintaining his freedom and space.
I can’t see me buying land and building a multimillion dollar corporation, but surrendering can be done in many ways. Life can be too regimented. My engineering work keeps a stiff rigidity in my life which brings both good and bad points, but I have little control over these. My speaking however is my own and here I’ve fully surrendered. I now go into every event unsure exactly what I’m going to say. Now don’t think that I’m winging it, being unprepared or not taking my speaking seriously. I take my speaking very seriously..! What I’ve learned is to be flexible to the event at hand. Over the years, I’ve gained knowledge, experience and stories which are locked into my mind. They all have a message and I use them as I need to, depending on the needs of the audience. I like to be at events early and feel the atmosphere of the room, to give me an impression of which to use. Speaking with delegates allows me to gain their thoughts, see how things are going and decide on my course of action. Surrender allows me complete flexibility when it comes to timings and pace. You may be booked for a 40 minute slot, but late running of the day may find the organiser asking you to reduce to 30, or even 20. My reply is ‘that’s fine’ and I adjust to fit. You will make many friends in the room if you can pull this off on spec, but remember that speaking for half the time, doesn’t mean that you should double the speed. You must prioritise and remove anything that doesn’t add value, unless it’s a string to hold your presentation together. Many people use reams of slides which give a rigidity to what you present. They can also be used as visual notes, rather than using paper ones, but the rigidity they make gives little in the way of flexibility. If I use them, I take the numbers right down so that there are quality images to enhance my presentation, but remember this. The audience has come to listen to you, not sit at the cinema watching a film. It’s your experience, knowledge and stories which count.
Since surrendering to my speaking, I’ve felt much more relaxed on stage, felt great excitement as I challenge myself and have been given huge applause and ovation. Some speakers get stale delivering the same keynote or workshop, but by surrendering, you keep alive and fresh.
Could you try this..? I’d advise new speakers to learn their trade first, before embarking on such a challenge, and learn from experts. I watched the wonderful Ronnie Barker as a child, and learned what a master he was at word craft, adlibbing and creativity. John Creamers books on Improvisation are excellent. I’ve run improvisation sessions in outdoor centres on a number of occasions. Everyone learns fast, has a huge amount of fun and gains confidence in themselves.
Lack of confidence is always seen as a reason not to speak, but if you surrender, I wonder where it could take you..?