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!


  1. Wow, this is truly timely for me, Rich! It's exactly what I need to hear today, especially point E, because I spent several hours last night on point C, watching video of a corporate keynote I gave recently. Specifically, I was watching camera 2, which was shooting the audience. Ouch! Today I shall work on being both a Quick Healer and a Merciless Editor. Thanks!

    1. Great to hear from you David - keep going out and making a difference!

  2. Great message, Rich! Every one of your points speaks to me.

  3. Rich, this is exactly what I have been doing. Speaking to point B, be mindful of your mindset. I am a member of a lunchtime club in the building where I work. We have an hour meeting once a week. From past experience and mistakes, I have learned that, if I have a an important role; Toastmaster, Speaker etc, to not schedule any important and serious work meetings right before the start of Toastmasters. The 30 minutes before, should be spent in preparing the mindset and visualizing that you are presenting a great speech and your audience really wants to hear from you.
    Same goes for when I am presenting a seminar to clients. Prepare the mindset, tell yourself, this is what I have practiced and practiced for several days.
    Michael Caine said; "Practice and rehearsals is the work, performance is the relaxation."

    1. Thanks Vikram - love the quote, and it's great to hear how you're using these techniques in the real world!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...