Getting Over Yourself

August 31, 2012

And what was Clint Eastwood thinking?

From all accounts, Clint Eastwood is an amazing director–even able to direct himself. I’m sure he had a grand plan in mind last night at the Republican Convention, but it lacked something in execution. I think he wanted to sound conversational and yet he sounded uncertain.

We know he can memorize lines, so at the beginning I wasn’t worried that he didn’t have the teleprompter.

Apparently some people liked it and others found it confusing.

The same thing can happen to you if you’re not clear on your purpose and the outcome you’re looking for. You don’t necessarily have to have a script, but you do need to have a specific plan. Winging it works for some people. But, if you want to “wing it” your best bet is to know the point you want to make and the path you’re planning to take to get there. When you’re giving a speech, memorizing isn’t your friend, but clarity and focus are your friends.


Governor Tim Pawlenty is an example of looks not matching sound

The former governor of Minnesota’s speech at the Republican Convention is a good one for you to watch without listening and listen without watching. He sounds much stronger than he looks. So radio would have been kinder to his speech.

And, interestingly, this man who was apparently on the short list for Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick, gave a very vice-presidential speech. That is, he did a good job of being the attack dog–a role that traditionally is expected of the VP candidate.
On the other hand, Senator Marco Rubio, in terms of his speaking style, was completely congruent. His body and voice matched what he was saying, so if you watched and listened separately there was no disconnect. He handled the pauses well; his gestures were appropriate; and his voice indicated that he was in the moment. Present.

August 29, 2012

What was Romney thinking?

Really. What do you think Romney was thinking when the convention erupted at the end of Chris Cristie’s speech?

I can hazard a guess that he was uncomfortable and didn’t want to look like he was showing off. It was the moment of everyone’s jubilation at Mitt being the nominee and he stayed seated and kept his face neutral.

This matters to you because you can be tempted to try not to look inappropriate when someone is praising you–in a meeting, as they introduce you, as you get an award. But if you look at how it makes him look distanced from the idea and what’s going on, you should be able to see that letting yourself appreciate the bigger picture rather than focus on yourself will actually make you look interested, happy, appropriate–and invisible.

If you didn’t see it, watch and let me know what you think: It’s at the end of the evening. Because it’ll be a quick lesson for your own speaking.

Try this to improve your speaking while watching the political conventions

You can get a whole different perspective on the speaking if you’ll mute the sound for a bit and just watch. You may get a different message that way. And you may find you didn’t need the words to get the message.
Then look away from the TV and just listen for a bit.
I’d like to hear from you on how that worked for you.

So, what did you think of Ann Romney and Chris Christie last night?

You’ve probably noticed the speakers get more polished (those with more experience) as the evening goes on.

What did you think of Ann Romney’s speech? Of Chris Christie’s?

It’s not too late you can watch all of them from last night, or just skip though and watch parts of it. PBS has it at

I’d like to hear what you notice about the speakers.

I like seeing how they deal with thunderous applause while waiting to speak.

Governor Scott Walker just started talking right over the applause.

Rick Santorum while quietly waiting for the applause to die down kept repeating “thank you” at reasonable intervals.

Ann Romney just waited quietly as she beamed at the audience.

And how did you like seeing Ted Cruz (Senatorial candidate from Texas) speaking without a lectern–the only one who did that? Did his cowboy boots make a statement to you? If so, what?

You can also notice an interesting range of passion and how it affects the message.

Ann Romney’s passion was evident and not combative or gooey. Her timing was great. She spoke at a pretty good clip that wasn’t asking for sympathy and wasn’t milking her points. Yet she spoke two lines in a measured way, with complete conviction, good pauses and good body language. It was almost as though there were periods between the words. “This. Man. Will. Not. Fail.” and “You. Can. Trust. Mitt.” Her focus, her body language, the pauses, made those simple sentences electrifying.

Governor Christie’s passion is much more emotionally delivered plus he doesn’t display the carefulness many speakers of the evening had which tends to sweep the audience along. Later you may rethink what you heard, but he makes it easy to get caught in his rhythms.

In spite of the passion, he doesn’t sound angry. Committed to his ideas and his party, yes. Personally angry, no.

Contrast that with the between-speech interviews with Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuna and Governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad. Governor Fortuna spoke thoughtfully and with conviction. Governor Branstad was obviously passionate but angry. It felt personal. And he wasn’t going to let anyone get in his way to grind in his point.

These are good opportunities to observe other people’s approaches to speaking and use what you see to tweak your own speaking.

August 28, 2012

Even if the conventions are political theater you can learn something

This morning I heard a reporter announce that she wasn’t going to cover the conventions because there’s really no news taking place. That it’s all political theater. I won’t argue with that, but if you’re serious about your speaking you probably still ought to watch. It might give you insights as to the candidate’s positions, but even if it doesn’t, it can be educational.

Do you like Mitt Romney? His wife Ann? Chris Christie?  All have different speaking styles and it’s interesting to see if you’re being swayed by that instead of by the message. Both conventions may offer ideas that are worth thinking about. Are you able to listen to the ideas regardless of whether the speaker is good at speaking or not?

Make that your mission. Because if you can figure out why you enjoy listening to some speakers and not others, you’ll make progress with your own speaking. Separate yourself from your political biases and just observe–facial expressions, pauses, length of eye contact, freedom of movement, tone of voice, appropriate inflection. Is their congruity between the message and how it’s being presented?

It’s a great couple of weeks for honing your speaking skills with such a huge number of speakers in such a short time. I hope you use this opportunity as you work to hone your skills.

August 17, 2012

Simple words that bring down your businesslike reputation

When did we all become “you guys”? I began to notice in my workshops how often people were using “you guys” in a presentation. Then, I noticed it at business meetings. And now, I’m seeing experts in their field on television talking to “you guys.”

I’m sure I’ve said those words on occasion, but you really must consider whether that’s how you want people to see you. It’s quite informal and not at all how you want to be presenting yourself in your business or career.

Since part of the problem I see speakers having (that makes them less than effective) is that they don’t actually hear themselves and don’t know what they’re saying or what their bodies are doing.

Practice being aware of your word choices and your body movements when you’re not in front of an audience.

And, it’s really simple to get in the habit of saying “you” instead of “you guys.” It’s small thing but it does affect how your audience sees you.

August 8, 2012

What happened to Gabby’s focus?

Gabby knows she has to work on her focus. She knows, and we know, that she is an outstanding gymnast. You have to work on your focus consistently until it becomes a natural habit for you.Once she won the Gold, think of the distractions — her family, well-wishers, celebrations,  which haven’t been a part of her daily experience. It would be easy to lose focus.

And what about the rest of us? We may not be in medal races, but there are plenty of distractions that can keep us from being all we can be. Whether it’s a speech, managing your people, or golfing, for best results you need to be in the moment.

Here are a couple of things you can do to sharpen your focus and ability to “be there.”

See if you can listen to a one-minute news story on the radio from beginning to end without wandering off to think about other things.

Similarly, see if you can recite something you know by heart (in your head) that’s about a minute long: The Gettysburg Address, the 23rd Psalm, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Again, the goal is to see if you can get all the way through it without losing focus.

Keep at it until you are good at it. Focus is really exercising your discipline muscle. And just like any other muscle it will get stronger as you work it.

August 7, 2012

What Dr. Michael Gervais told Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings

Here’s a gem passed along by the announcers as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings competed in their Olympic beach volleyball playoff against the Italians: “Confidence is a little voice that says, “you belong.” (Sports psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais)

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from that piece of wisdom.

You’re the one who gets to program that little voice. Your choice. An objective assessment of any given situation – speech, networking, job interview, etc. – can help you reach that conclusion: You belong. It’s the counterproductive “noise” voice that gets in the way.

When you know you belong, you can trust your instincts and do or say the right thing–or keep your mouth shut.

Cultivate the “little voice” and just say, “no” to the noise.

August 6, 2012

Curiosity landing on Mars proves scientists are emotional

When you see the reactions of the Curiosity team as the “7 minutes of terror” passed successfully and Curiosity safely landed on Mars, all visions of scientists, engineers, techies, being stoic and dry are dispelled. High fives, hugs, whoops were the norm–as you would expect when so many years of work turned out successfully. And it was fun to watch. It made the moment more real and exiting to us to see those most closely involved give themselves over to their collective joy.

And it’s the same for your audience. Pretty much everyone has the capacity for being engaged and engaging, when they give themselves over to what the moment calls for. So, when you’re speaking, there is an appropriate amount of energy, focus, and engaging expression for any subject you need to talk about. Stay focused on the heart of the idea rather than on yourself. If all those folks at JPL can be expressive, so can you. You don’t need an explorer to land on Mars to shake you free. Just a shift in focus.

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