Archive for April, 2009

Embrace Limits for a Longer Lasting Message
April 21, 2009

My BB only allows me to text 160 characters including spaces. Embrace limits, use them to make your message stronger. Edit, edit, edit. Sent from my Blackberry.

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Is It In You?
April 16, 2009

I have been studying, or I should say using, Practical Philosophy for about 13 years. I take these classes at the School of Practical Philosophy and Meditation in NYC and for a few years now I have had the honor of teaching one of the nightly introductory classes aptly named Philosophy Works. Last night was the first class of the term, and one of the questions on the table was: where is Wisdom? The purpose of the class is to find out in experience, via our daily lives, if the words of the wise throughout the ages are true and can be of use to us. So, Plato says in Laws, that there are four primary human virtues: Wisdom, Courage, Temperance and Justice and, of these, only Wisdom is innate. The others have to be learned. Now in my experience I believe Wisdom is innate. I believe finding Wisdom is much more a question of removing the barriers to it within our selves then starting with the premise that it is something we lack. When we eliminate things like judgment, expectations, criticisms, worry, self-doubt or fear then we find that we are brighter, happier, more efficient, smarter, tolerant and peaceful; and those seem to be qualities of Wisdom. Stripping away all these barriers leaves us with a more natural us, real us, true us, authentic us. The whole point of this blog is to encourage and possibly show some ways that we can discover and speak with our authentic voice.

The question of where is Wisdom got me wondering whether the same is true for communication? Is there an innate ability to communicate and communicate well? Could one of the benefits of discovering a more authentic us be more natural communication?

As I thought about it more, those who present for a living or have ever had to develop a presentation go through a kind of internal search. From the abundance of brainstorming to the conscious precision of words spoken, ideas communicated and images displayed the presenter removes the unnecessary. Whatever gets in the way of the message is removed. That IS the same process as discovering ones authentic voice.

This is not to discount learning techniques and tools for better communication and presentation design. However,  I encourage all speakers to learn and use technique as a means to uncovering your authentic voice, recogninzing it and feeling comfortbale with it. So, like Practical Philosophy I say we test this out and see for ourselves. Let’s work toward being our selves in front of an audience and discover if good communication is also innate.

Moment of Zen Tip (props to the Daily Show):

The less YOU are on the stage the better.

(Think about it)

Don’t Be That Guy
April 9, 2009

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What makes someone a good speaker? For anyone who presents for a living that question is THE question. It’s a huge topic with endless advice, answers and examples (of what to and not to do). There is, however, a good place to start.

I was day dreaming the other day about watching someone on trial and all that you can learn from seeing someone else in action. I was also, at the time, thinking about how I am convinced nobody in positions of great authority and power in this country are in those positions because they know more than anybody else. I don’t know how they got there, but there they are. For a rookie presenter, no matter what field they are in, they are encouraged to watch others and learn. Usually, that means watch and learn what TO do, but rarely are they also told to look out for what NOT to do. But does the rookie know this? So the daydream continued and in the dream I saw someone deliver a great summation. It was entertaining, moving, well thought out and simple. In the dream I thought wow how can I do that? How can I be THAT GUY? And that is when I woke up.

All too often rookie presenters mistake the persona of the person they are watching for the skill or technique. So they embark on becoming a certain persona instead of understanding the skill set and making it their own.

For me the first barrier that goes up when I am talking to someone, especially in a presentation scenario, is the feeling that the speakers are not being themselves. Like Holden Caufield says, “that guy is such a phony”. The presenter becomes the focus, not the idea. It is a pet peeve of mine when I am out and some one says, “I am so drunk” It annoys me to no end because instead of just enjoying how you feel at the moment, you call attention to it.  Presenters who are pretending to be someone are like bad actors that make the audience more aware of being in a theater watching, then creating the illusion of eaves dropping in on someone’s conversation or being in the living room itself.

It happens in writing as well. I happen to think my wife is a great writer, and she knows I would tell her if I did not like something. When I first read something she wrote, other than her telling me she wrote it, the women I know was nowhere to be found. She disappeared, but all her writing has a similar voice; HER voice.  As part of some classes she takes she needs to read and critique other peoples work so I hear them sometimes. Many of them are hard to get through because immediately they sound like someone trying to be a writer. It is a little embarrassing to listen to, like reading an old journal entry or poem you wrote when you were 13. Once the person becomes the focus then for me it’s over and that only happens when you try and be someone else.

My first piece of advice to a rookie would be, don’t be THAT GUY. You need to find your voice. I volunteer teach Practical Philosophy classes and I remember seeing another teacher who got more students and was quieter than me and moved slower and did everything softer. One term I tried to be him and my class numbers dropped to 1. I had 1 student. I don’t do that anymore. I talk loud, fast and get pretty energized.  You should watch others, seek advice and learn but all of that has to be made your own. I also think it takes the pressure off ofcomparing yourself to others. There is no comparison, you can both do the right thing and it should be totally different because you both are different.