“Let me tell you a story”
To me, that is one of the most beautiful sentences in the human language. And fortunately for me, I get to hear it a lot in my line of work.
Story, my friends, is the word of the day.
Today I want to talk about the science of story and a simple trick for weaving storytelling into even the driest of presentations.
Here's a fun fact about Story:
When we hear a good story, our brains release oxytocin.
Oxytocin is one of those feel-good hormones that's specifically associated with trust and bonding. You can see why this might be especially powerful when you’re giving a presentation.
Perhaps you've heard that old business school adage, “We buy from brands that we know, like, and trust.”
Well, this doesn’t just apply to our shopping habits. We also buy into ideas from people that we know, like, and trust.
So, if you want...
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...
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...
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.”
At long last, May is here!
Here in New York, it feels like spring is finally in the air, and the streets are buzzing with the possibility of new beginnings.
On that note, I’ve got a personal update that I’ve been busting to share…
Next week, I’ll be jumping into rehearsals for a new musical at the New Jersey Repertory Company!
I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to perform for a live audience for the first time in many moons.
Spring has sprung and live theatre is back in a big way!
Now, if you’re newer to my emails you may be thinking,
“Wait, I didn’t know Sara acted. Isn’t she a public speaking coach?”
You’re not wrong!
I am indeed a public speaking and storytelling coach.
What I probably don’t talk about enough in these newsletters is where my training for these fields comes from.
So it’s at this point that I must reveal my secret identity: I am, and...
I’ll be honest, I’ve found it pretty hard to build momentum this year. I’ve got a lot of exciting projects and collaborations in the works for 2022, but very few firm dates for anything.
With all the Omicron uncertainty, it feels like folks have been reluctant to put things on the calendar.
And I 100% get it. I’ve been dragging my feet on all sorts of commitments.
There are flights to be booked, calendars to be coordinated, and plans to be made.
It’s all going to get done, but I’m finding every stage more effortful than usual.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
I’ve been hearing it from my clients as well. This winter, everything has just felt a touch more effortful than usual.
Returning emails. Keeping the fridge stocked. Finding time for creative projects.
Usually they burst into the New Year feeling wildly motivated.
This year, they’re feeling motivated, but they’re also...
Here are a few phrases I’m sure you got sick of hearing in 2021:
This was the vocabulary of the virtual meeting. But there was one phrase that broke my heart more than all the rest…
“I come off a lot better in person.”
I heard some version of this refrain at almost every virtual event I attended.
And look, I don’t disagree! I think most of us come off better in person. Something is always lost when we can’t make direct eye-contact with the person we’re speaking to.
But here’s the thing… virtual events aren’t going anywhere.
Many of us have accepted this in the short term. We figure events will probably remain virtual while omicron and/or other variants are surging.
But I believe things have changed in a more fundamental and long-term way.
This Saturday, I’m speaking on perhaps the most nerve-racking stage I’ve ever stepped onto…
Am I giving a TEDTalk? No.
Am I finally officially announcing my candidacy for elected office?! Not yet.
I’m doing something even scarier…
I’m officiating my brother’s wedding.
Now on a certain level, this kind of speaking engagement is as easy as they come.
After all, you’re never going to find yourself in front of an audience that is more primed to root for your success!
So, why do these sorts of events make people so nervous?
The answer’s pretty simple:
These speaking events require us to risk getting emotional in front of a crowd.
For most of us, that is a pretty terrifying prospect.
Which is why I want to devote this month’s blog post to the subject of speaking in emotional contexts.
If you’ve ever delivered a eulogy, given a toast at a wedding, or shared a...
Apply this basic outline to any speaking engagement to feel twice as prepared in half the time
(without hours of pointless memorization!)