10 of my Commandments for Public Speaking: OR... Why I Became a WomanSpeak Leader
One a dark and stormy night….literally….I was stuck in a last-minute hotel in wind-swept Wyoming after leaving Thanksgiving celebrations in Salt Lake City on my way home to Colorado. As frequently happens, no traffic was getting through the wintery I-80 because of numerous accidents, winds, and icy roads. Have you ever seen those travel trailers opened up like sardine cans? Yikes!
Alone and perhaps slightly grumpy after my dinner of trail mix, I sought distraction by looking for interesting articles to post about on social media. (you know...those “likes” feel so good).
I searched “Public Speaking” and “Leadership.” Within a few keystrokes, I found WomanSpeak.com and was intrigued. An entire public speaking training system? With fresh ideas? By women? For women? Focusing on authenticity? You mean...a community of growth-minded people geeking out about public communication just like me?!?
The more I read, the more I knew this was something I wanted to build: a community to celebrate and support each other regularly as we explored sharing our stories and messages and receive supportive feedback from each other in the process. My heart sang: a place to nurture leadership through speakership.
Here are the core beliefs of WomanSpeak that align so well with what I want to create in the world
In-person public communication is a physical act
If someone on stage is telling a great story, no one in the audience is swiping left. Our brains are wired to empathize and connect with a live speaker through body language and facial expressions by way of our mirror neurons (sure...go google them. I’ll be here when you’re done).
Practicing in front of a live audience is vital and enriching
Yes, memorizing, or embodying your talk is vital, but figuring out how to be yourself on stage, getting familiar and comfortable with your communication style in front of other people takes physical practice.
Practicing itself is imperative
I believe that every act of public speaking should be prepared for in order to most respect the audience’s time and attention. WomanSpeak groups give a place and system to this growth and practice.
The feelings of “nerves” are an inherent part of speaking
Yes, you can re-interpret the sensation of “anxious” as “excited,” (both have fluttery insides and sweaty palms) but the bottom line is that having all of an audience’s attention on you creates big sensations in your body. As one TEDxBoulder speaker said before going on stage, “This is the feeling of my body getting ready to be awesome!” WomanSpeak groups fully acknowledge those sensations and teach skills for channeling those intense feelings into powerful communication.
You must build trust and safety first before a critique can be integrated
This is a tenant dear to my heart, that I learned after working for thousands of hours with teenagers, and I spoke about in my own TEDx talk. I believe in calming the nervous system, creating trust, and only then asking people to step into something new for them. In WomanSpeak, we all gather and connect into our bodies first, before anyone is asked to step onto the stage.
Speakership is Leadership
Whether you like it or not, how you speak is where you lead. If you shuffle and retract as you speak, your audience retracts as well. If you can hold a vision of the idea you want to share and invite them to join you; that is the spark of leadership. From WomanSpeak: “It’s time for a public speaking training that supports women in harnessing the power and wisdom of their bodies, and in being fully who they are, as they stand up to speak, lead and change our world.”
Authentic voices are more impactful than staged dramatics
Try this exercise: watch a number of TED or Ignite talks with the sound off. Do you notice the natural gestures and patterns that are unique to each speaker? Instead of a prescribed style, WomanSpeak groups tap into each woman’s individual authentic voice and style.
Accountability builds community
Showing up is tough. Lives are busy. Work is demanding. But communities are built on the trust of being present both physically and emotionally. Yes, it is a risk to ask women to join this community based on showing up 2 times a month (“sooooo busy” can be worn as a badge of honor), but it’s a risk I believe is worth it for the trust and connections it develops.
Concrete goals focus development
WomanSpeak is not only the practice of regular practice (though it can be) but a speaking curriculum where people can aim to give 5 min talks, 12 min talks, and when they finish the curriculum, they are a Certified WomanSpeak Speaker!
Keynote Speeches, Presentations, or Elevator Pitch...they all are based on finding and practicing your message
Yes, our focus of WomanSpeak is public speaking, but these skills, tools, practices support every stage of communication. Public Speaking is the #1 phobia in the US -above snakes, airplanes, and even snakes on a plane. ;-) If we vanquish the largest demons from the highest pressure public speaking skills first, aren’t all the rest easier?
If you’ve read this far, listen to your own curiosity and excitement about this group. You can get a peek at what I’m building in the evening on February 13, and other monthly dates into the future as well. I’m already thrilled with the women who have raised their hands to be there on that night and into the future. I do have some more spaces, so register at the link above, or schedule your own 15 min conversation with me to see if WomanSpeak is a match for you.