Getting Over Yourself

September 26, 2016

If I were you, I’d record the debates

Filed under: Tips — Barbara Rocha @ 10:28 am
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I’m thinking we’ll be watching for substance and every useful thing we can get out of the debates tonight. And I don’t think we should be distracted by observing speaking strengths and quirks as we do that. BUT. If we record them, it will give us the chance to do some serious observing to see what works as a speaker and what gets in the way.

The more objectively this an be done (as in not being swayed by your personal view of the candidate) the more you learn. So, when you watch the recording, select a few minutes that seem interesting (or confusing) and do 3 things. First, watch it one time without any sound. Second, listen to it once without watching. And third, watch it once in fast forward. By separating the “channels” of your intake, you’ll pick up quite different messages that can help you see what kinds of things affect how your audience listens to you.

And if you have a video of a presentation of yours, try the same thing. It helps you be clear which things are working and which you could tweak a bit.


September 23, 2016

If I were Hillary, I’d practice with the Saturday Night Live cast

Filed under: Observations — Barbara Rocha @ 11:59 am
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With the debates coming up in a couple of days, there’s a lot of speculation on how the candidates are preparing. The reports are that Trump is just going to let it fly as that’s how he’s most comfortable.

Have you given any thought to what it would be like to debate Donald Trump? My conclusion was that I’d hire someone from Saturday Night Live to practice with. They’re good at changing things up, being off the wall, being bigger than life. Because his method of communicating is to stir things up as much as possible and to throw people off balance. So, I don’t believe I’d take the usual road to preparing. Because Trump isn’t a usual candidate.

August 10, 2016

Does Donald Trump WANT to be President?

Donald Trump reminds me of my son when he was 14: he’d get caught for stuff that was so ridiculous that I could only conclude that someone as smart as he wanted to get caught.

This feels a lot like that in that Trump says things that seem designed to keep him from getting elected. And, since he’s apparently a smart guy, it looks as though it’s his way of being sure he isn’t elected.

Perhaps this is his way of avoiding the actual tedious nature of BEING President. And just have the fun of being the HUGE center of attention for a year or so.

Perhaps once his numbers were terrific and it looked like being President was a real possibility for him, he just removed any boundaries..

Who knows how the election will turn out. He’s broken all the rules and has had great numbers. But please, don’t use him as a role model for your speaking–except for the part where you hone in on being perfectly clear who your audience is and tailoring your message to them.

March 2, 2016

Can anyone trump, Trump?

This whole election cycle is so interesting I hardly know where to start. They’re always interesting in terms of learning things about your own speaking–what works and what doesn’t. But this time has certainly bumped up the stakes.

The question seems to be: Can anyone trump, Trump?

One lesson to learn from for your own speaking skills is that you can’t really copy anybody else. Marco Rubio is suddenly sounding like Donald Trump in his choice of words, but his delivery falls short.

I think there are very few people in the world who could successfully carry off what Trump is doing. Listen to his voice and watch his body language–which are a huge part of his message. His voice completely condemns someone either with it’s total conviction as fact, or as completely dismissive of an idea he wants to trash.

Marco Rubio can’t quite commit because it’s not an ingrained part of his persona. So his words are matching Trumps in snideness but his voice comes short of conviction so it tends to sound more whiny or defensive.

I once heard someone say, “Never wrestle with a pig in mud. You just get dirty and the pig likes it.” Perhaps there’s something in that that can be applied here.
Part of the problem with going after Trump and trying to straighten everyone out with the facts about him, is that when his supporters are interviewed some have made it clear it’s not about the facts. They’re “mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore.”

Aristotle said something like, “People make up their minds based on emotion and justify it with the facts.” My mother always joked about people who wouldn’t listen, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Something in one of those applies here. So trying to share facts may just make Trump’s supporters mad at you for suggesting they’re stupid.

At the least, what you may get is that you’re better off to be authentic. And that no matter how much you admire someone else’s style, or no matter how much you want to come out on top, copying probably isn’t the answer.

February 4, 2016

Trump vs. Cruz as speakers

Let’s remove the politics–if you can–and observe some points about speaking that can help you with your speaking.

Everyone seems to agree that

  • it’s Trump’s entertainment value that has caused the debate ratings to be so high
  • it’s general anger at our current “state of the union” that has attracted so much enthusiasm for Trump, Cruz, and Sanders, and that
  • misstatements, incorrect facts, or showy rhetoric haven’t caused their supporters to defect.

So, I’m only going to look at speaking style and attitude as you hone your skills in assessing why you like or don’t like any particular speaker.

Donald Trump is blustery in a childlike (sometimes childish) way. Sometimes he’s kind of like that inappropriate 4-year-old that everyone finds endearing while also recognizing the inappropriateness. Sometimes he’s like a teenager who just keeps getting louder to cover up mistakes, or who attacks by attributing his own behavior to someone else.

He makes those who he considers his audience feel included “it’s you and me.” [I would suggest that you avoid the phrase you uses so often, some version of “let me be honest with you.”]

On the other hand, Ted Cruz manages to feel like the parent to Trumps child. His words say that we’re all in this together, but his demeanor is more disapproving–of most things–even when he’s speaking positively. Where Trump seems to be spontaneous and enjoying the process and himself, Cruz seems rehearsed and careful.

Perhaps he is harking back to his debate training, but his jokes feel planned and barbed. (Ben Carson has had a few planned jokes, but his consistently flat delivery and delight in his point seem to make them actually feel funny.) You have many times heard me hold forth on the importance of pauses. But even here the his voice inflection and attitude make those pauses border on scary rather than encouraging.

One thing they have in common: they both make it sound like “it’s my way or the highway.” I can’t counsel you on how that will turn out for them, only that I don’t recommend that as a strategy in your speaking.

In contrast, Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio are both more welcoming in their demeanor. They’re more in the mode of inviting others to listen to the voice of reason without so much of the “I’ve got an axe to grind” tone in their voices. There’s more of a feeling that “this is what I believe and you get to make up your own mind.” And there’s no question, they do believe it.

Who knows how it will end? But I encourage to use all these political presentations as part of your speaking education. I would not encourage you to try to emulate anyone. But you can look for the principles that are or aren’t working in terms of speaking and work to incorporate the principles. If you can separate yourself from your own political views in the process.

For more:

November 16, 2012

Was it advertising or body language that lost Romney the election?

It’s interesting to hear pundits hang the loss on the lost opportunity early on to answer the negative ads with ads of his own.

Here’s just one more research result that shows how powerful an influence appearance is on our election choices.
We really don’t like to think we’re that shallow, but apparently we are. While there are many positive aspects to Romney’s physical appearance, he has several mannerisms that just don’t jibe with our inner expectation of what a President should look like. I mentioned before the coy way he tucks his head and looks up (something that worked well for Princess Di, but not for a presidential candidate). He stopped it during the debates, but there it was front and center when he conceded the election, as well as his habit of taking steps that are just a bit too small for his size.
These may be a mark of a really nice guy, but they’re not indications of strength (I’m talking about how we emotionally respond, not about whether or not he actually is strong), and not what we expect a President to look like.
And my point is? My point is that you may be the greatest person in the world at what you do, but sadly, people won’t find you credible if you distract them with your body language.

November 5, 2012

How much power does a President have to keep promises?

Filed under: Observations — Barbara Rocha @ 11:49 am
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I don’t quarrel with candidates making promises to the electorate. At the very least some of them give you an idea of what’s important to them–or to their followers. But I do have a problem with climbing all over whoever the President is for not fulfilling all of them. Too many surprises await a President upon taking over the office.

With the best of intentions, George W. Bush was blindsided in moving forward with his big ideas by the attacks on September 11. And, I believe Barack Obama thought he could bring down the unemployment rate until the reality of the actual condition of our economic situation became clear.

Not only that, you have the extreme edges of your own party insisting that you add to the gridlock and not willing to support you, as well as the extreme edges of the other party vilifying you. It’s a wonder anyone wants the job and that anything gets done.

I think most of the people who seek the office really want America to be “all that [it] can be.” And if all those adamant about getting their own way would be willing to get some of their way and cede some, we might actually make progress. The President is only one-third of the equation, and often taking the “bully pulpit” is the most powerful part of the job.

Whoever wins tomorrow, it’s going to be a squeaker (from all appearances). And things will go better if we don’t all implode over not getting our own way.

November 1, 2012

Is your vote based on rationality or emotion?

According to Aristotle (who was big into rhetoric), people make up their minds based on emotion and justify it with the facts. So, it’s no wonder that polls show that people vote for
the person they feel most comfortable with.

A study by Albert Mehrabian shows that your appearance and various aspects of your voice carry more weight than the actual content.

Mitt Romney has smoothed out some of his bumps beginning with his performance in the first debate, and President Obama has begun to sound a bit more tense. Changes that may be a factor in the changes in the polls.

Perhaps the best way to remove the personality characteristics from our voting choice would be to read their speeches and interviews rather than watch and listen.

If John Kennedy was seen to win his debate with Richard Nixon by those who were watching on TV and Nixon was considered the winner by those listening, there must be something to this.

Knowledge is power. It’s good to be aware of what moves us to act.

October 11, 2012

Watch how the candidates walk

There’s a certain amount of walking involved when candidates give speeches or are in debates. And it’s just interesting to see if you get any kind of message from how they walk and shake hands with each other. We (as a general thing) give more weight to these visual cues than to the content. So see if you’re being swayed by these seemingly irrelevant things.
So, tonight it’s Biden and Ryan. Next week Romney and Obama. An adequate amount of time to observe.

October 3, 2012

Is likeability the key to getting elected? Really?

Everything seems to point in the direction of the most likeable candidate winning pretty much every time. Sometimes something happens in a debate that switches that factor to the other candidate, but for your purposes as a speaker, you’d best not ignore history.

Does your audience feel connected to you? Can they relate to you? Do you relate to them? If you continue to believe that the validity of your message is all that matters and don’t make that effort to connect, you’re not going to win your “election.”

Don’t make it hard for yourself and your audience. If you’ll get out of the way and concentrate on being the matchmaker between your subject and your audience, your chances of winning the election, making the sale, getting the action you had in mind increase substantially.

So, how likeable can you be?

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