Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Inspired or Simply Surviving?

For me, there is nothing quite as powerful as someone with an idea to share and the ability to share it. This is Thought Leadership and has been my obsession for 30 odd years. I believe that the tools to express your Thought Leadership are public speaking skills, the art of oration and the science of influence. The ability to get up in front of a group of people and share an idea in a way that is engaging, relevant and meaningful.

There are countless books on public speaking and they all talk about dramatic pause, or body language or share techniques for structuring and preparing a speech. At first this abundance of books on the topic of public speaking made me a little reluctant to write yet another one. So I started reading those I could lay my hands on and noticed something common to them all. They were written from a fear management perspective and offered templates and techniques for just getting by when you speak in public. It seemed to me they have been written for people who plan to speak once in their life for 15 minutes and never again. They seem to be coloured by the brush of ‘just get out of this without embarrassing yourself and we have succeeded.'

What has been fundamentally missing for me in all the work so far on public speaking and presentation skills was the ‘Inspired' approach. The challenge to step up and be truly world class. To be extraordinary, to be so damn good at speaking in public that your are invited, seduced and yes, maybe even paid to share your thoughts. Can you imagine that? What would you need to know to be able to do this ‘thing' called public speaking so brilliantly?

Well, before we get into that let me lift the game, raise the stakes and up the anti! (you can tell I've been a motivational speaker for a touch too long.) Let me suggest a bunch of reasons (seven) why speaking in public is inspirational and something you need to get very good at very quickly:

1. It is the new leadership imperative.
Followers require so much of their leaders. The post industrial age, hierarchical, authoritative leadership styles make way for empowered, flat organisations whose competitive advantage lies in their culture and great cultures are run by inspired leaders.

2. It is the ultimate personal development vehicle.
There is something phenomenally challenging about speaking in public. There is nowhere to hide, what you don't say says more than what you do and people form judgements very quickly about who you are and what you are saying. The more you develop YOU as a person, the more effective you are as a speaker.

3. It is leveraged influence.
One on one listening is great, but not easy to do at scale. If you are building a fast growth movement or organisation you need to quickly get everyone on the same page. Speaking in public is one of the truest ways to do this.

4. It is a new media.
News sources are biased. We don't trust the paper or TV to let us know what's going on, we trust the person in front of us. Speaking to large audiences is the new media. Unedited videos on say, You Tube, are now extending the reach, and its the whole speech not just edited highlights on the six o'clock news.

5. It is a certainty filter.
Managing what you know to be true versus what you think might be true is hard to do well when you are only thinking about it. Speaking it out loud forces you to really consider what is true for you and what is just imagined. Speaking is the ultimate ‘light of day' test for your ideas. The minute you say something out loud to a crowd that rings untrue, you know with absolute certainty that it is not right. Of course, the positive opposite is also true.

6. It creates transformational moments.
Turning points in life both for you and those around you are often defined by the small acts of courage and moments of inspiration. Standing up for what you believe and putting it out there and open to ridicule is courageous. And when you do it often, breathes a little life into those who listen to lift, to elevate their perspective or shift their consciousness.

7. There is magic in a live shared experience.
Listening to your favourite artist on a CD or MP3 player is great, seeing them live at the stadium is something else. Public speaking is the show, you don't get the same experience reading the speech as hearing it and hearing it live versus recorded is another level again.

So, if you were not nervous about speaking in public before, you just might be now!


  1. I recommend Presenting Magically: Transforming your Stage Presence with NLP by Tad James and David Shephard. It's a little technical and hard going in parts but it is excellent.

  2. Thanks for sharing that Matt. Though Leaders inspired me to take things a step further and go for the "Newfeeling" step of doing a major presentation; scary but very exciting!

    Last week's Ebook has been a great resource for me too, way to go!

  3. wow that pulled at my heart strings. I am inspired! That's why I am on this journey and I couldn't have put it more eloquently. Particularly loved point 2. It is the ultimate personal development vehicle. There is something phenomenally challenging about speaking in public. There is nowhere to hide..... for me this was the biggest challenge when starting as it doesn't matter how successful you are or have been when you start speaking you have to peel the layers away and be raw and vulnerable if you intend to truly inspire. As its the only way to CONNECT maybe connecting is a whole chapter...It also fits with point 7. That magic... and 6. Transformational experiences. I think they are created when we are able to connect on mass as though they are the only person in the room.

  4. Great reading. I like point 4 - it so true - we are the communication.

  5. Inspirational stuff as usual Matt. I love the concept that there's magic in the live shared experience. The key for me is that the more folk feel it is a shared experience the greater the likelihood that people will take action, partnering with someone they shared the experience with.