Tuning Your Instrument
This is the third in a series of articles written on the subject of improving platform skills for the public speaker. It also the addresses of commitment to excellence in any pursuit.
- "I'd Give My Life to be able to Play Like That!"
- What Are You Doing to Tune Your Instrument?
- Bottom Line
"I'd Give My Life to be able to Play Like That!"
After a concert, a famous cellist was approached by an audience member. We’ll call him Peter. Peter said to the cellist, “I’d give my life to be able to play like that!” The cellist replied, “I did”.
The cellist knew from an early age that to master the playing of his instrument, he had to practice. And practice specifically and consistently, every day, for years. He knew that if he did that, maybe, just maybe, he could give voice to the genius of Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven - and the genius that lay within himself. His vision took him beyond simply hitting the right notes, to playing the music.
As professional speakers, we don’t have an instrument made of wood, or brass or a combination of hammers and strings. But we do have an instrument! It’s us – our voices, our minds and our bodies. And like the cellist, if we want to be able to give voice to the genius within us, to allow the music of our feelings and points of view to shine - we have to practice with and tune our instruments specifically and consistently.
What Are You Doing to Tune Your Instrument?
What are you doing on a regular basis to tune your instrument and move towards mastery as a speaker?
When you get up there to speak, you want your body to be something more than a trunk to hold up your head. Ask yourself the following questions. Be honest!
1.Is my body fit?
2. Do I feel physically comfortable in front of an audience?
3.Can I move around with ease or is it easier to stay rooted in a single spot?
4. Does my body have a connection with what I am speaking about, or have I simply adopted the physical stylings of another speaker?
5. How is my posture?
6. Does my body respond to the feelings of what I am sharing, or am I simply a talking head?
Since over 50% of what we communicate comes from body language, it's crucial to pay attention to the messages given by your physical self.
I once went to see a speaker who was purported to be one of the leading experts in stress management. She had 3 published books, and on the strength of those books had a speaking tour across Canada and the U.S. After hearing her speak, I left with a major headache. Why? Her content was great. She moved with grace and elegance. But, her voice sounded like a hacksaw. I never heard much about her career after that.
Some of us have more work to do on our voices than others. Here are some tips.
1. All of us need to support the sound with our breath. Make sure have a vocal warm-up that works for you. A good vocal warm-up with open the voice, and also help your voice be less affected by any nerves you might have.
2. Don't succumb to the common mistake of assuming that because you are using a mike that you don't need to project your voice. Projection not only applies to volume, it also applies to mental intent. Do you believe in your message. Do you intend for the audience to hear you?
Take a step on the road to mastering your instrument by getting some feedback – from a colleague, a coach, a video of yourself. Take yoga classes and re-learn how to breathe deeply (many speakers run into problems with both physical movement and vocal strain by breathing shallowly. This is easily corrected by remembering how to breathe deeply). Learn how to sing or take an improv class. Step onto a platform when no one else is in the room and “take the space”…making your body movements expansive and breathing yourself into the room.
Lastly, use your imagination. Einstein reminded us that “Imagination is more important than knowledge". Imagine you are a king and that everyone who comes into the room can’t wait to hear you speak. Then do the work to merit their attention.
If the words we speak are backed up by our body language, the meaning of the words we have chosen will be congruent with our message. And if our voice is flexible and authentically ours, we are ensuring that are voice, body and spirit are all working towards one communication.
Tune and practice with your instrument, consistently and specifically. And look forward to the day when someone, like our friend Peter with the famous cellist, comes up to you and says “I’d give my life to be able to move an audience like that”. And you’ll say “I did”.
Note: for more tips on improving your platform skills, go to Elspeth's other articles. 'How to Command your Audience's Attention' and 'Why Stories Work as a Tool of Persuasion'.