Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Speak Raw!

I watched a great speaker last week. Well-crafted verbiage, some perfectly designed gestures, strong eye contact and great content. She was smooooo-ooooooth. In fact, too smooth. My advice to her? Speak RAW!

Becoming 'too good' is a risk we take as serious students of speaking. Getting everything down so perfect that we lose some important features in the perfection

- Connection - When you buy phones and blue-ray players today, you often find their display screens covered with a thin plastic shield of protection. When they are only covering items we want to watch, we may opt to leave the covering on. But for iPhones and other touchscreen electronics, we can't do anything without peeling the plastic off. If your presentation is too 'perfect', you are covered in plastic. Be willing to be RAW enough that the audience can identify with you, and mentally, if not literally, interact with you and your message.

- Spontaneity - when we become so committed to perfection, we often fail to see opportunities in the moment. Each audience is different, each situation opens up new possibilities for our material, and how it can apply to the audience. I don't mean to suggest that you go off on every tangent available to you - just don't be so locked in to your presentation that you miss the RAW pathways to your audience's heart and soul.
- Emotion - this factor is easy to lose in a 'perfect' presentation. Practice after practice can dull the senses of loss, anger, joy, surprise, confusion and triumph that we are infusing into our speech. After we've successfully connected with them, the RAW intensity of our emotion transfers to the audience to put them in the right state of mind.

- Humor - if you are too 'perfect', you'll start to wonder why no one is laughing at your humor, if you've managed to remember to put any into your smoothly polished masterpiece. Audiences don't laugh at perfection. They either observe and analyze it, or they ignore it. Either is bad for both parties. When you're RAW, the audience is more than willing to laugh, and they'll even laugh when you aren't expecting it. 

- Effectiveness - face it, if you've failed to connect, shown little or no spontaneity, emotion or humor, then you aren't effective. Your message doesn't get across, and you've wasted your time, the audience's time, and the time and money of whoever has booked you.

So how do you Speak RAW? 

With all apologies to my Vegetarian Readers...

- Don't be Undercooked - as counter-intuitive as it sounds. If you've practiced to the point of perfection, you haven't practiced enough. It's not enough to be able to deliver your lines, gestures, and expressions with pinpoint precision. Aim for Direction, not Perfection - be able to present your points and stories even when everything around you is going wrong - not by ignoring it, but by speaking within it. 

-Tenderize - whenever an audience meets a speaker for the first time, they aren't quite sure what to expect. Will they drone on and on? Will they be deadly serious and deadly dull? Will they be singers, jugglers, ventriloquists, and tumblers? Let your audience in on your personality from the beginning, so they know what to expect, and can settle into a comfortable zone to listen to you. The more comfortable they get, the easier it can get for you to make them uncomfortable when you need to. The longer the balloon stays in the air, the longer the audiences guard will remain up.

- Spice to Taste - Connect to the Emotional Flavors in your Speech. Emotion used correctly shows strength, not weakness. While you don't want to become a blubbering fool, you also don't want to come across as cold and unfeeling when talking about death or other traumatic situations. While you don't want to jump on a couch a la Tom Cruise a few years back, you can still jump on stage, and even scream for joy when you make a point, as long as you have Tenderized. You can't tell people to feel emotion, you must transfer it.

As much as your audience may want and/or need to hear what you have to SAY, they first need to want and/or need YOU. Smooth perfection, while great for pudding, doesn't provide enough traction for the audience to catch on to you and your message. Know your speech well enough that you're willing to take some risks. Give the audience permission to like you. Be in the moment when you tell your tear-jerking or triumphant tale. Speak RAW....and Deliver!

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