Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Head to Mouth Disconnect

It sounded SO profound in my HEAD!
It looked SO funny on PAPER!

But...But...it FLOPPED!

Yeah, that'll happen. Head to mouth disconnect. In fact, it happens a lot. When we think or write about what we're going to say, we hear it perfectly in our heads, and the audience reacts exactly as we think they should. Unfortunately, two big things can go wrong:

1. We don't deliver it the way we told ourselves we were going to deliver it. Lack of practice, change in mood, sudden onset of self-consciousness when we see who has actually shown up in the room...plenty of reasons can get in our way if we aren't 100% certain of the quality of our material.

2. The audience hears with their OWN minds, no OURS. Darn them anyway. Don't they know that was funny, profound, sad? Idiots. Even if we ARE 100% certain of the quality of our material, those percentages can drop quickly once the spoken word hits the live audience.

The two areas of your speech most at risk for Head to Mouth Disconnect? Your conclusion, and your humor. What sounds funny isn't always, particularly if you don't know your audience well enough. You conclusion is at risk mostly because it's the last thing you write, instead of the first. If the conclusion isn't fully supported by your speech, no matter how profound, it won't stand up in the end.

Hidden in between - your stories. Those anecdotes that you believe are simply perfect, but aren't. You just can't see it from the trenches. Stories that you have force - the square peg in the round hole - simply because it moves you, so you HAVE to share it.

While Head to Mouth Disconnect is not completely preventable, there are precautions you can take, and prescriptions after it happens.

A. Practice. A lot. At home in your living room is good. Finding a Toastmasters group, hiring a coach, speaking at service clubs, is better. Take your material out for a test-drive where the audience is supportive and/or the consequences are minimized. If you don't practice, what can I say? You get what you deserve.And if you don't practice and everybody loves you anyway, you're probably a celebrity - or their boss.

B. Be Mindful of Your Mindset. You've had a crappy day. You fought with your spouse before you walked out the door. You got a speeding ticket. And sometimes, life is really going wrong - your father died, your daughter has been diagnosed with a tumor, or there's a layoff at work. And here you are, supposed to go deliver a message with humor and hope.

That will throw off anyone's delivery. If you can't or don't want to get out of the speech, you've got to do a different kind of disconnect - your head from your life - just for that event. Focus on the audience and the outcome. Leave everything else out of your head, and go pick it up later. Easier said than done - this I know from personal experience. But if you are aware, you're more likely to deliver the speech you need, and want, to give.

C. Film & Watch yourself. Filming is relatively easy. Watching not so much. In fact, my clients usually refer to it as torture. Still, its essential - watch with the mindset of the audience, feel their response if you have a copy of a public speech, and take notes on what works and what doesn't. If you simply cannot film, at least get an audio recording app on your phone so you can LISTEN to it afterward. No excuses.

D. Be a Merciless Editor. I know it's your favorite story. Your funniest line. Your cleverest of clever wordplay. But if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. Go in with a strike-through state of mind in your word processor. Then read it without those lines. The universe hates a vacuum, right? Trust in yourself that you'll find something better.

E. Be a Quick Healer. That means both self-healing, such as your ego, and being a healer, by rewriting your speech. Usually your flops are only flesh wounds, and they look worse than they are. They still need attention, but they won't kill us. The more dangerous cuts come when our flops interfere with our message by deadening the audience response, inadvertently contradict our intent or ideas, or tear down our credibility.

Head to Mouth Disconnect. It's only terminal if you ignore it.

What's the worst case you've ever experienced? Share below, even if it just happened to 'a friend'.

Meanwhile - go out and Speak....& Deliver!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Your Real Message is in the Gooey Center

Tootsie Roll Pops. Oreos. Twinkies, may they rest in peace. 

They hold inside of them the secret of your best speech. The gooey center in each completes the experience. Sure, the candy shell, crunchy cookie, and spongecake is good, and some even say it's the favorite, but for most, the chocolate, white frosting, and whipped cream filling are the payoff. And for the sake of today's post, I'm not going to split cookies - or hairs.

Lets face it - some speakers never get past the wrappers. They'll tell you something without any style, dialogue, or humor. They preach, teach, and train you until you decide whatever's inside isn't even worth getting to any more.

Good speakers, use stories, dialogue, humor, changes in pitch, volume & meter, and occasionally even a little acting to keep you involved, and stay memorable. We enjoy listening to them - but if they stop there, it's like biting into a filling-challenged Twinkie - empty and disappointing.

What's the Gooey Center, then?

It's the part of the speech that actually MEANS something. The part of your message that transforms and moves your audience. At first glance, you probably won't even see it. Remember your first Tootsie Roll Pop, before you knew it had a Tootsie Roll in the middle of it? You can't even tell it's there at first glance.

Your message is just as easily missed, by YOU. You're writing that story about fear, and boy, it's funny. You scream and run on the stage and everything.  Your audience howls and loves it. That seems good enough. It Isn't.

You have to break through the surface.

Why are you afraid? Because you might die? Fair enough. Then what? Kids have no father? Then what? You didn't prepare them financially? Then what? You didn't say what you always wanted to say? Go deeper. You don't know if your kids know you love them? That might be it. You never taught them to love themselves? Oooh. You might be there. Or it may lie even deeper. Ask Shrek said - Ogres have layers. Speakers better have them too.

You can't always find your Gooey Center alone. Even the average round of feedback isn't usually enough. Find a coach who's willing to ask you the hard questions, and be willing to answer them. My best speeches all came because I had my coach, Tom Cantrell, and several World Champions of Public Speaking, including Randy Harvey, David Brooks, Jim Key and Darren LaCroix asking me questions at various times.

Now that I'm spending most of my time coaching - I'm the one asking the hard questions, helping my clients find their Gooey Centers, so their audience gets the complete experience of the treats they are sharing. It's not easy. Sometimes it means dealing with issues you don't want to deal with, or sharing stories and ideas you'd forgotten about. Being a speaking coach is the next best thing to being a bartender, or occasionally a psychotherapist. Just ask my coachees :)

Don't stop at the wrapper, or even the crunchy or spongy exterior. Dig deep. Take a big bite. 1 - 2 - 3 - CRUNCH. When you taste the Gooey Center, you're ready to Speak & Deliver!


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