I had a thought pop in my head recently about public speaking. When you are giving a speech or presentation you have to become someone else. You have to give a performance. No one acts the same in general conservation and when they give a presentation. There is a difference! You have to be genuine and likeable. But you can’t be the same person you are when having a beer with your friends. You may have to project that people would have beer with you. But you wouldn’t necessarily act the same way. Unless you form of public speaking is stand-up comedy.
Understanding the Craft
I can’t take full credit for the observation that public speaking is a performance art. The idea came to me while listening to an interview with Jamie Foxx on The Tim Ferriss Show. Foxx was talking about doing impressions and how this was a base for his stand-up comedy. Foxx details the basics of doing impressions and how doing an impression is like singing. To break it down further you do a Kermit The Frog impression in the key of G. In general, I was impressed in Foxx recognizing the link between performing an impression and singing. Which makes sense, singing is the manipulation of your voice and so are impressions.
I then had the realization that public speaking is much like any performance art. It’s like playing a piece of music in front of an audience. It’s like acting out a scene in a play. Public speaking is a formal art form. But if you break it down to the sum of its parts it is an art.
I am no expert on public speaking. I’m unscared of giving a speech or doing a presentation. But my job does not require me to do those things on a regular basis like someone in sales or education. There are bad salespeople and teachers. Like any profession. I think this is mainly because they did not add a performance aspect to their presentations.
Think about your favourite teacher. What was different about that teacher? What made them special? I’m guessing they didn’t read from a book all class. I’m assuming they made the material relevant to you. They had a way of commanding the room and getting your attention. Essentially, they are great performers.
In order to be a great performer, you need to have passion. Passion comes from different places. You can have passion for subject area. You can have passion for the craft of public speaking. You can have passion for teaching. Passion is what makes a public speaker great. An audience can tell when a presenter is unpassionate. If a presenter is bored, then the audience is bored.
If you look at some of the best TED talks, the best presenters are very passionate. One of my favourite TED talks is Berne Brown’s talk on vulnerability. From the minute she steps on stage you can tell the passion she has for her study area. Hell, she basically dedicated her life to studying vulnerability. Brown has an ability to make the topic relatable to everyone. I can guarantee when she is presenting no one is looking at the time wondering when the presentation is going to end. This goes without saying but if you haven’t seen her TED talk. It’s worth mixing this video in while you are watching cat videos on YouTube.
All great presenters are great storytellers. Whether you are telling your own stories or someone else’s. Telling a great story is one key to a great presentation. It’s also one of the keys to being a great performer. Drawing a person into a story and make them feel a part of the presentation is a difficult thing. You know a great storyteller when you can sit down and listen to him speak all night. The ability to draw you into the story at the right moment and provide a wow factor at the end is what separates good and bad story tellers. I recently listened to a Matthew McConaughey interview promoting his new book. The interesting thing about this interview is McConaughey refers to himself as being in the story telling business. He doesn’t refer to the industry as the entertainment business. I love this distinction because he identifies the core of film making which is telling stories. To be a great actor, you have to be a great storyteller. This is much the same for public speaking. To be a good public speaker, you need to be a good storyteller.
Nuts and Bolts
There are many nuts and bolts that I can go into about giving presentations. Like having expression in your voice and speaking plainly. But this isn’t the point of the article. The point of this article is to form a link between public speaking and the performing arts. To make people understand that if you have ever acted in a play or played a musical instrument. You have the ability to give a good presentation. It is difficult to get your reps in, if presenting isn’t part of your regular work activities. Although with some practice on your delivery you can perfect your presentation and wow your audience.
Just one last note for relating public speaking to the performing arts. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Everyone has sat in a presentation where a person has listed stats and numbers for an hour. By the end of the presentation, the presenter and the audience feel exhausted. Even if you are presenting the latest revenue numbers for the business quarter. Try to be inventive and find a creative way to present the information to your audience. Intergrade some stories among your facts and figures. Put some funny pictures in your slide show. Tell a joke! If this doesn’t work, at least bring coffee and donuts the keep everyone awake!
Like most of my articles I started out with a general though and expanded it. This article is on the shorter side. But I hope you find some useful information about public speaking. In the end if you want to become a better public speaker, it takes practice. The more your practice the more confident your will be. Have a great week everyone! If you would like to hear more from me sign up for my email notifications. Or look me up on Instagram @the_52_book_challenge.