Getting Over Yourself

October 22, 2018

“Winging it” isn’t the same as “off the cuff”

Filed under: Observations,Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 11:23 am
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Winging it is when you say to yourself, “I know this stuff, I’ll just get up and tell them. I don’t need to prepare anything.” Off-the-cuff is when someone calls on you and there’s no chance to prepare.

I found out long ago that I can wing it and sound coherent (that is, I can get away with it), but that I’m cheating my audience and diminishing my point. I’m also likely to include a lot of things that aren’t necessary.

So, for the best results, when you know ahead of time that you’ll be speaking, focus long enough to see if you can make your point in 3 to 5 sentences–and I don’t mean long rambling sentences. Brief and to the point.

And practice out loud making your point as concisely as possible, but not so concise that you leave out the connecting thread of your story (timing yourself as you do it). Finish your remarks with a clear wrap up that leaves them in no doubt as to why you spoke to them.


October 15, 2018

Trying to impress your audience usually backfires

Many people have ruined a perfectly good presentation by thinking about how to impress the audience rather than thinking about how to help the audience.

If you help them, they’ll be impressed. If you try to impress them, you’re offering yourself up for criticism.

The difference is that when you’re focused on helping them they can focus on the ideas you’re presenting.

And when you’re focused on impressing them you’re focused on yourself–and they will focus where you do.

Practice keeping your focus where it belongs and you’ll choose better ways of saying your message and have an easier time presenting it. Plus, they will be impressed.

September 14, 2018

What to do when your mouth gets ahead of your brain

The excitement of speaking tends to give you a spurt of adrenaline that can get in your way if you don’t know how to deal with it.

Undirected, the adrenaline creates noise in your head about the size of the audience, who’s in the audience, questioning how prepared you are and more.

The upshot? You have no focus and feel out of control, which opens the door for your mouth to take over. And who knows what it will say?

When this happens, even if you were to deliver your entire message accurately you would feel inadequate and question everything about your presentation.

The answer is that when you feel unsettled because your mouth seems to have a mind of its own, pause. Just stop talking and let your brain catch up. It’s really only half a beat behind and won’t take any time at all to catch up. (It will take some time if you start having an argument with yourself about how inappropriate it is for you to stop talking.)

Mostly, people won’t notice that you paused and if they do, they won’t care. And even if they cared, once you started again it would be clear that you were on message and they’d forget it or admire it.

Once you let your brain lead the way, you’ll feel back in control. You’re good to go.

For more:

September 11, 2018

Continuing to push the “Walk” button probably won’t make the signal change

Filed under: Observations,Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 10:47 am
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Well, it will eventually change but probably not because it’s being pushed repetitively. The computer governing the signal doesn’t care.

And what does that have to do with speaking? It’s about your audience.

Regarding the signal, I’m pretty sure that method won’t work, so I think it’s silly. But maybe the person hitting it needs to feel in control of something at that moment. Maybe they’re just in a hurry and only thinking about getting across the street and not about logic. Or maybe they know something I don’t.

The point is that when you’re speaking to a group something may seem so perfectly obvious to you that it doesn’t occur to you to consider another point of view. Now you run the risk of annoying, offending, or alienating members of your audience.

It’s valuable to take the time to know who’s in your audience and what’s important to them as well as how this subject affects them. And to do this before you even start to think about putting your talk together.

August 15, 2018


You’ve heard people tell how important it is to be passionate about what you’re saying. So, the question is: Can you be too passionate? And how would you know?

There’s a line between the passion that focuses the audience on your subject (and makes you invisible) and the passion that focuses people on you (makes you highly visible).

You can get away with some pretty wild behavior (well, I guess that depends on your definition of “wild”) when you’re totally focused on helping the audience. Your passion for your subject has to include the people you’re talking to, not directed at them. When everyone feels like part of the “performance” they’re listening to you, enjoying the process, and considering what you’re saying.

When you’re busy sparkling (and it can be such fun), you will have fans, but because of the personal nature of the delivery there will be those who feel left out and those who have the time to be critical–because they’re not engaged.

And how would you know if your passion is over the top? If you feel at all self-conscious. It you’re feeling personally pumped.

No passion: dull, lifeless delivery.
A personal sense of passion: a little too show biz.
A passionate desire to share with and include the audience: just right.

February 19, 2018

What keeps you from speaking up?

You can take that question in a couple of ways: 1. Why don’t you say something when there’s something to be said? 2. When you do speak, why don’t you speak UP? That is, speak loudly enough to be heard.
The answer to both of those are pretty much the same–we let ourselves get in the way of speaking up.
There is such a thing as perhaps having too much to say and just being annoying. But I’m addressing the reluctance to speak up when it would be to your benefit (or someone else’s) to do so.
Getting in the way of speaking up comes from focusing on what people might think of you. Not wanting to be the center of attention. Not fully committing to the idea you are expressing.
In the case of speaking up about something that needs to be changed, fixed, or considered, it helps to focus on the outcome you’re looking for and the benefits of that outcome. If there are none, then don’t speak up. But if there are, then craft your thoughts to reflect those benefits and keep your eye on the prize. When you value an idea and appreciate what it can do for the current situation, you’ll find it much easier to speak up.
In the case of not speaking loudly enough to be heard, the same process just described will help get you off yourself and start thinking about the value of the message you’re delivering. If it’s important enough to say, then it’s important enough to be heard.
I’ve noticed that when people are introducing themselves, talking about their business or their project, the not speaking up often gets worse. When you don’t speak loudly enough to be heard, it seems apologetic and diminishes your credibility.
Take a moment to value the ideas and you will find it much easier to see the idea as the center of attention rather than mistakenly focusing on yourself as the center of attention. for more tips

“Drop it. And forgive yourself.” Lindsey Jacobellis

When something goes wrong in the Olympics it’s a much bigger stage than most of us will ever have. And no matter how much time you have spent preparing for a talk, an Olympian has you beat. So, I’d say if that’s what this Olympic athlete strives for (drop it and forgive yourself), that it would be a good goal for us — whether we’re giving a speech or have just messed up in some other area of life. There’s no fixing it, no moving, when you keep beating yourself up. There is no upside to that.

When you drop it and forgive yourself, you can move forward. Learn what you need to and do better the next time.

February 16, 2018

Watch the Olympics to improve your speaking

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 3:04 pm
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In almost every event you’ll see total focus on an idea–the idea being whatever their event is. And sometimes you can tell when someone is distracted by the enormity of being in the Olympics.

A commentator the other night said of one of the Russian skaters (who fell down on one of his moves) that he was brilliant in practice, but got into his own head too much during the event anticipating what was coming rather than letting muscle memory take over.

That can happen in speaking. You can let the noise in your head when you’re in front of an audience stop you from going with the flow of your story. Letting the story tell itself rather than forcing it.

And many of the individual sports have actions that let the judges know they’re in control. In snow boarding a commentator talked about how grabbing the board while in the air was one of those actions.

In speaking, one of the main actions that tells the audience you’re in control, is your comfort with silence. Being able to pause before you start and to pause to let the audience think about the ideas is huge.

One snow boarder quietly waited for the wind to subside before starting his run. It’s what he needed to do and often it’s what you need to do–be able to wait until you’re ready.

Shaun White, the Italian and North Korean pair skaters all had a freedom in their bodies that made it fun to watch. When they’re that comfortable in what they’re doing, it’s easier for me to trust the performance.

And the same can be true for you in speaking.

The Olympics is the most concentrated block of total focus that takes place in our lives that gives us a chance to observe and learn. You can pick up some valuable tips by being conscious of those principles that show up in individual Olympic events and in your speaking.

August 30, 2017

What to do when people get snarky when you make your point

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 9:47 am
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My mother used to tell me, “It’s your tone of voice” when I complained about how my brother was treating me. So first it’s important to be aware of your tone of voice, making sure you’re not sounding superior or condescending. You’ll get a lot less push back if you present the idea as something to be considered rather than something fixed in concrete. Even when there is no other possible way to look at the situation, someone will, and they just won’t hear someone who is telling them they are wrong.

It’s true, though, that sometimes the listener is so sensitive to the subject at hand, that they’ll get snarky anyway, regardless of how reasonable you sound. And then you have to continue to not get in the way–to not take anything they say personally. They may feel the need to rant. You need to feel the need to stay focused on ideas, not on personalities, and never let yourself feel like a target. They’re ranting because the issue threatens them in some way and they just lash out.

Listen and nod. But don’t take the bait. And perhaps say something calm about their obviously having thought about this a lot. “And yet, for the moment, I stand by my remarks.”

August 10, 2017

Not talking may give you more presence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Barbara Rocha @ 10:30 am

When we’re asked to speak, usually the first thing that comes up is “what will I say?” And then the words seem to remain front and center leading up to “how will I remember everything?”

We’ve talked about how to make it easier to remember your story and there are many things you can do to keep your story line straight as you speak.

But sometimes worrying about getting all the words right leads to tense delivery. And that leads to everything coming out in a hurry.

Do yourself a favor. Stop worrying about whether you’re going to remember; this allows you to get up there and tell those people what you need or want them to know. If they get that, then you’ve been a success. (If you can’t remember how to make your story easier to remember, e-mail me and ask.)

Not talking often has more impact than talking. Meaning, let yourself pause. Participate in your story and you’ll realize that you can’t just blow through these things–even you won’t be able to process the ideas.

Silence is your friend. It’s what we do in conversation. Pause and let the idea sink in (for both the speaker and the listener). Being able to do that gives you a sense of being in charge, and actually allows you to deliver your message conversationally.

When you’re able to naturally intersperse your message with enough silence to allow everyone to absorb the ideas (yes, you too) then you automatically have presence. Which is a good thing.


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