After a recent trip to San Diego, I started to read “Happy for No Reason.” In it, Marci Shimoff states that she was 13 when she decided to be a motivational speaker. She had just heard Zig Ziglar and she wanted to “do that!” I could relate to her story, though not quite as certainly. I mean at age thirteen, growing up in Puerto Rico, when the circus came to town I wanted to be a trapeze artist! When we went to San Juan for the “Coppelia” ballet and I saw Fernando Bujones glide onto stage, I wanted to be a (male) ballet dancer! And when my family gathered and grandfather asked us kids what we would do with our lives, wanting to make him proud I would say, “A dentist!”
So I didn’t have Marci Shimoff’s clarity at 13 regarding wanting to be a speaker, but I knew I wanted to help people be happier, live better lives, share an experience of joy. A big part of getting to be a great speaker has to do with learning from the best. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
1. Know your passion.
Why are you speaking? Why is it important? What will your message help build in the world? Great speakers, trainers and communicators know how to cultivate and nourish their passion. This is in addition to the to their skill in communicating with an audience, in addition to organizing the material, in addition to basic good delivery technique. To great speakers and communicators life and work are about purpose and passion.
2. Heart to Heart.
Great communicators connect with their heart to bring forth a shared message or experience. Once they make contact with that message or experience in their own hearts, they then extend out from that place to make contact with their training class, with their coaching client, with their student, with their audience. This is a subtle and very refined distinction. The best coommunicators can do it easily and even effortlessly. When it happens, everything shared does, in fact, come from the heart. The audience feels they’ve been moved by something they cannot quite explain. In this video, Eliot Cowan describes the process:
3. Learn to speak authentically.
Great speakers and motivators can move us with the power of their integrity, their humility. It’s not always about projecting your voice to make a room erupt into laughter or applause as Tony Robbins can so masterfully do. Each person has a style, a lisp, a “tell” which in the case of the great communicators is embraced and used to advantage. Great speakers and communicators don’t sound like anyone else, they sound like themselves. They don’t sound like a recording. They don’t sound fake — and believe me, we all know what “fake” sounds like. When I train Customer Service Teams or coach a client on their presentation skills, this is one of the powerful basics … unlocking your style and your words. It is powerful, honest, true. It resonates. It is remembered. In this video, spiritual teacher Malidoma Some exemplifies that: