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How to become a great speaker

I'm an agile coach.  I'm a writer. I'm a vocalist.  I'm a speaker.

 

I'm not GREAT at any of these - yet - but I'm better than where I was a few years ago, and just might even be on the path to greatness in one of them.

 

What I AM great at right now is LEARNING. I'm such a great learner, in fact, that many people notice it, and praise me for it.  Trying to become great at any of these crafts involve learning and perhaps what I've learned could almost be called a process. I'm not a fan of process for process' sake.  I do believe in process, however, for PEOPLE'S sake.  If defining a process can help people get better at a craft, or their skillset, or life, I'm all for it. Process ON!

 

So here is a process I have followed to move towards becoming a great speaker, which might help you become a great <whatever you want to be.>

  1. Define your intention

  2. Prepare

  3. Practice

  4. Perform

Simple, right?  Yes, but also so very much NO.

  1. Define your intention
    This is probably the most important action you can take.  The act of defining what you want to do is so powerful, I've learned that by doing it, I often accomplish it more rapidly than I think I can

  2. ​Prepare

    Learn everything you can about the craft. Invest in education, training or coaching until you are ready to actually practice the craft.

  3. Practice

    Once you have enough basic skill, practice the craft, with the intention of being the best you can. Use your strength areas by finding the things that are a natural fit.  Also pay attention to your weak areas and work to improve them. 

  4. Perform

    Get out there and USE the craft.  Step out of your comfort zone.  If you're trying to be a great speaker, find every opportunity you can to speak to groups of people.  If you're trying to be a great singer, go to Karaoke shows, or volunteer for a singing group and perform as often as you can.

     

    Notice how your audience responds to what you're delivering.  Ask for feedback, and make sure the person you ask knows that you want honesty, even if it's not kind.  Then take the feedback, prepare, practice and perform again. 

Simple enough, right?  Perhaps too simple?  

 

There IS something else, so secret that it's not a step in the process.  Whatever you do, make sure you do it with PASSION.  After all, what you do is a gift to the world.  Give without reservations.

 

I recently learned how important this was.  I stepped out of my comfort zone to start singing for my church 2 years ago, but don't consider myself the best vocalist. But I set an intention about a year ago to be a great singer.  I listened and prepared. I practiced a little, I performed at as many venues as I could, I got feedback and I got better.

 

I started visiting a neighbor who holds weekly jam sessions with VERY talented professional musicians. There's no structure to a jam session.  No way to prepare because the group doesn't have a script they're following, or written measures.  These musicians are so good they segway from one song into another that I never noticed were even similar, and often that I've never heard.  It's a gift to anyone who listens and also very uncomfortable for a prepare, practice and perform person like me.

 

My lack of comfort held me back from singing with them for several months.  I noticed one of the musicians was pretty critical, but he was absolutely amazing.  I almost stopped going. But true growth happens OUTSIDE of my comfort zone, so a few weeks ago, I took the initiative to sing in front of these musicians. I prefaced it with: Don't judge, I'm here to get better. They were kind, but took the mic back after the first run-through and showed me how to do it right.

 

Last week I went back, and I took a seat with them when it was time to go acoustic.  I listened, and eventually started singing background vocals.  I remember saying more than once "I don't DO this", but stopped when the guitarist said "Right, but you ARE doing it, so keep on doing it".

 

Several songs later, they finally sang something I knew fairly well. I hadn't performed it, but I didn't hold back.  I sang my face off.  It was a gift to all of the people who were listening and I knew it as soon as we were done.  

 

I went by Mr Critical when we were done singing.  He said "You have a nice sound girl, what are you, a soprano? " I told him I'm more of a mezzo but with a decent head voice. He said "Next time you come over, I want to hear something YOU sing".  

 

Who is this guy? Just someone who played for a little band called - the Grateful Dead. 

 

Prepare, Practice and Perform makes a difference, but sharing your passion with someone who has mastered it?  That's the secret sauce.

 

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