Gifts for the Head and the Heart Through Public Speaking

Are your words to your audience a gift of ideas?

Are your words to your audience a gift of ideas?

It’s the morning after a glorious and intense week of travel, new meetings, introductions, preparations, and celebrations.

I won’t say I’m exhausted, but I can see it from where I sit.

Confession: Looking ahead to another week with more of it all creates an urge to melt under the covers again. Morning tea and a yearning stomach urge me to the kitchen instead.

While the water boils, I attend to the mail and discover a surprise. Among the credit card offers and sales fliers is a thoughtfully packaged and hand addressed slim parcel. I suddenly remember the conversation with a client last week when she asked for my address, but I sheepishly admit that at this moment I can't quickly recall the exact genre or subject of what she said she was sending me.

Feeling delighted that I can open it with bare fingers instead of sharp tools, I find a gift of her own collection of poetry.  I open the cover, read the first lines and sharply inhale, struck by the words themselves, but also my sudden hunger for these constructed black lines and curves on the page that seem to be for me. About my history. Speaking to my future. Recognition. Comfort. Perspective. Reflection.

“Outside, how mild the air,

Lynx stirring from their dens, birds swelling

with eggs, crocus grunting

out of the bulb.”

“What I liked about Jesus

was that he touched lepers, overturned

moneylenders’ tables, spoke with Samaritans and

wasn’t afraid.”

“If we can’t dance in flame and sleep on sheets

of ash, our love is not immortal.”

Gifts. This was an expected experience with an unsuspected impact. I am soothed, seen, encouraged, and nourished.

* * *

An enormous challenge of our time is riding the see-saw between analog and digital. Between machine and human. Between head and heart.

In my mission to develop the world through improving spoken ideas, if I stray to one extreme or the other of the see-saw my reach is limited.  If we focus only on email open rates, percentage of videos watched, clicks and likes, we lose touch with our shared humanity. If we only meet in person and only speak of emotional connections, we lose the opportunity to exchange vital strategic information or reach beyond who is in our immediate proximity.

Is there a solution? Perhaps. The slim tome of gems I received in the mail reminded me of an answer and why I’m excited for Monday morning to return with another week of travel, new meetings, introductions, preparations, and celebrations.

Some months ago, my business partner Ryan Foley and I conversed about public speaking being a gift as he prepared to coach speakers for the Houston E.O. Talks (A TED-style talks event by E.O. members). We arrived at the conclusion that the coaching would be focused in on the gift each speaker was leaving with the audience. He wonderfully shepherded them towards this end.

With the feedback from Ryan and each other, the speakers honed the gift they personally could give the audience - their best balance of head and heart.

Perhaps their talents were more head based, but to connect to the audience they wrapped their numbers in human-centered stories and analogies. Perhaps their message was more heart based, but to connect with the logic-minded audience members, they spoke of the strategies and outcomes to support their stories.

I was there for the event. Some of the gifts I received were numbers that helped me understand my world better. Some were stories that encouraged me to courageously move forward.  Thank you to all.

* * *

On this gentle recovery morning of tea and mail and thoughts of gifts, I remember a favorite quote.

“A mind once expanded by a new idea never regains its original shape.”

- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. or Ralph Waldo Emmerson (depending on who you ask)

I’m curious if Oliver/Ralph would agree that the same idea applies to the heart as well as the mind. My heart and mind both are certainly inalterably expanded today.