This morning I found myself in a bit of a creative rut. I sat down to write this blog and simply was coming up empty.
This is something clients complain to me about all the time.
“Sometimes I’m so terrified of saying the wrong thing, that I can’t think of anything to say at all.”
To which I usually say, “Okay, let’s practice saying “the wrong thing” and see what happens!”
It’s amazing what you can come up with when you lower the bar. When you sit down with the goal of writing a messy first draft as opposed to a Pulitzer prize winning novel.
Or…when you change the prompt altogether.
Today, I was feeling uninspired by the prompt of writing a blog.
So instead, I’m going to share with you a poem, a picture, and a puzzle.
"Ode to a Zoom Meeting"
A baby cries.
A dog barks.
David, you’re on mute.
Can someone put the link in the chat?...
Are you a notorious straight-shooter who always says exactly what's on your mind without a moment's hesitation?
This blog is not for you.
Today, I want to talk to my overthinkers.
My friends who always think before they speak (sometimes to their own detriment).
Growing up, we're often told to “Think before we speak.”
This is excellent advice in general. Having a filter is a very useful thing in polite society. But, as with so many things in life, a trait that starts off as adaptive can very quickly become maladaptive.
Let’s talk about this idea of “the filter.”
When it comes to speaking, I like to think of verbal filters like curtains.
Each idea we have is a ray of sunlight.
In an ideal world, these rays are filtered through the curtain, letting an appropriate amount of light into the room.
People who have no filter often get in trouble for speaking without thinking.
They’ve built a house without curtains...
I'm feeling spicy this morning, so allow me to make a blasphemous claim about my industry:
When it comes to public speaking, preparation is good, but technique is better.
Now, am I saying you should wing your TEDTalk? Absolutely not.
But, I do think most of us are over-emphasizing the importance of “preparation.” (Or, at the very least, we’re defining “preparation” wrong.
You’d be amazed how many times a week I play out some version of this scene:
Future Client: I’m not bad at public speaking, as long as I have time to prepare.
Me: Okay, great! How often do you feel like you’re given adequate time to prepare?
Future Client: …almost never.
And therein lies the problem with relying on “preparation” when it comes to public speaking.
If you define “preparation” as spending hours outlining, drafting things out word for word, memorizing, and rehearsing in front of...
Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, where I got the opportunity to meet some true ICONS of public speaking.
I'm of course referring to...the Muppets.
Perhaps I should explain...
There are two particular Muppets that come up in my speaking sessions about once a week.
↓ These guys. ↓
Perhaps you're already familiar with Statler and Waldorf, the two grumpy old men who heckle the other Muppets from the back of the theater, as Kermit, and Fozzie, and the rest try their best to put on a show.
The reason these two cantankerous old puppets come up so often when I'm helping folks with public speaking, is this:
They are the perfect embodiment of the noisy inner critic that plagues many public speakers.
That voice that pops up mid-presentation to say unhelpful things like:
Yesterday morning I did an experiment that I've been anxiously avoiding for weeks.
I tentatively opened up my laptop, opened my browser to the famous (or infamous) AI chatbot "ChatGPT," took a deep breath, and asked it a question...
"Hey ChatGPT, will you please write me a blog post about the importance of public speaking skills in an age where content writing will increasingly get outsourced to artificial intelligence such as yourself?"
10 seconds later, sitting before me was a well-structured and largely accurate email newsletter.
It was pretty dry and generic, but it was passable.
(Important note: THIS is not that blog. Please be reassured that any and all typos and malapropisms are completely my own. )
Like so many people, I was equal parts impressed and distressed by this technology.
Sure, I can write better content than ChatGPT, but I certainly can't write it faster.
What will this technology mean for creatives like myself who are largely...
I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear some version of the following statement:
“I don’t really do a lot of speaking. I mean–I have one-on-one conversations all the time, but the idea of speaking to a crowd TERRIFIES me.”
This statement always puzzles me.
(Not the part about public speaking being scary–that I totally get. Performance anxiety is a completely normal fight or flight response that I will get into later in this very email!)
No, the thing that puzzles me is the first half of that statement:
How can someone say that they “don’t do a lot of speaking” and immediately follow it up with “I have one-on-one conversations all the time”?
This is one of my biggest gripes about the field of Public Speaking.
Most of us are putting far too much emphasis on the word “Public.”
Public Speaking does NOT have to mean “speaking to a crowd.”
If you speak...
Happy New Year!
Hope you got to enjoy some much needed rest before launching into 2023.
I know for me, the last week of December is all about rest and reflection.
You will not find me in Times Square for the ball drop! I spent the last moments of 2022 enjoying a sleepy board game night with a handful of good buddies.
And as much as I love a good new year's resolution, I feel like that process is doomed without a healthy dose of old year reflection.
That's why before I sit down to create my New Year business goals, I always take an afternoon to review my past year's numbers.
(As much as I'm a word nerd, I also appreciate some cold hard data!)
And here's the big stat that hit me as I conducted my 2022 audit:
In 2022, more than 60% of my business could be traced back to public speaking events that I participated in.
That means more than 60% of the folks that hired me in 2022 did so because they attended a talk or workshop that I...
September was a heck of a month for Speak Masterfully alums and I gotta take a moment to brag about my clients.
(Don’t worry, I’ll keep it to a lightning round. I could ABSOLUTELY talk your ear off like a proud mama after her kid’s first big recital, but I’ll try and curb that impulse.)
So without further ado, here are 3 September success stories in 30 seconds or less.
Absolutely nothing brings me more joy than seeing the dynamic, hardworking, inspiring people I get to call my clients becoming known as thought leaders in their respective fields.
I can’t help but shout it from the rooftops.
But I’m not writing this blog PURELY with the purpose of bragging about the rockstars I’m lucky...
I’ll level with you. I did not feel like writing this blog today.
In fact, I’ve been avoiding it all week.
Every time I sat down to write, it felt like something came up.
Monday: A friend texts wanting to meet up for coffee.
Tuesday: A colleague I normally meet with over Zoom proposes we do our 1-to-1 in the park instead.
Wednesday: I make up all the client work I couldn’t get done Monday and Tuesday.
Thursday: My husband has a half-day and proposes going on an adventure.
Friday: Nothing comes up. I’m just so out of my normal routine that I completely forget about the blog…
“Yikes!” I think. “Well, at least I can play catch-up this weekend!”
Then I look at my calendar and realize… I’m somehow out of town and/or traveling every weekend for the next 2 months.
This has been the story of the summer for many of us.
All of the traveling and socializing that we’ve been putting off for the past 2.5 years...
One of the first things I ask a client when they tell me they’ve booked a speaking gig is, “What’s your goal for this event?”
For newer or nervous speakers, the top 2 responses I get are:
“I want people to see me as an expert in my field.”
“I want to sound smart.”
Who doesn’t want to be viewed as an expert in their field?
But unfortunately, while this goal is completely understandable, it’s also completely doomed.
That’s right. The voice in your head telling you to aim for “sounding smart” is leading you down a dark path.
A path that ends in my biggest public speaking pet-peeve… jargon.
We’ve all heard it (and we’ve probably all used it in an insecure moment).
Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.”
Apply this basic outline to any speaking engagement to feel twice as prepared in half the time
(without hours of pointless memorization!)