Learning to Ride a Bike.
“I can’t do it, Daddy” she wines.
It’s Summer 2013 and we are futzing around the sidewalk in front of the house. My daughter is on her brand new bike, me behind her pushing her as she tries peddling for the first time. The bike was a birthday gift. She has just turned 3. The bicycle has training wheels, of course, and we are still a long way from our final goal of complete independence.
Like anything new, you need to start somewhere. New is scary. And as a parent, watching your child discover something new, something that you’ve long taken for granted is both humbling and sweet.
“I don’t think I can do it, Daddy,” she repeats.
“Of course you can, Hon. You just need to peddle and steer. I have you. You can do it.” is my full-hearted response.
“I’m scared,” she whimpers back.
“You need to know you can do it and then go for it. You CAN do this. I believe in you,” I reassure her. And on it goes, the delicate dance that is learning how to ride a bike. Onward we tread, one session at a time.
The hardest venue for many people to speak is a ceremony. A ceremony can refer to any number of personal events. It can be a wedding, a funeral, a birthday party, or a bar mitzvah. It could be a housewarming or family reunion. It is essentially any large gathering of family and friends, either in joy or sorrow. For most, the difficulty lies in the unease of performing in front of people you already know. People you grew up with. Which is surprising, given any number of them have already seen you naked at some point in your life. And being gawked at naked is far more troublesome or vulnerable then making a measly toast. However, it’s undeniable that the familiarity between you and the audience does make things tricky. If you screw up a presentation in front of coworkers, you can always go home after a “bad day at the office.” But, it’s awfully difficult to return home after calling your wife the wrong name or letting it slip that you think Aunt Sue is getting fat.
When speaking to a group of loved ones, there are two basic rules to remember. First and foremost, don’t be a bumbling drunken twit. You would think this goes without saying, but come on, we’ve all been to weddings and seen that toast. You know the one where the childhood friend stands up only to slur his way through some incoherent anecdote. He tries to be funny and a bit racy, but instead you end up feeling embarrassed for him. That little fiasco was only outdone by that one time your drunken uncle took the opportunity to toast you only to turn it into a story all about divorce and alimony checks. “Liquid courage” is overrated.
This brings me to the second rule of ceremonies. Be yourself. Play to your strengths. Some people are funny. Some people are charming. Some people are serious. Some people are sweet. When you write a toast or an announcement or a eulogy, write from your heart and be genuine. Don’t try to outthink the room, don’t try to showoff, or be something you are not. Remember, these are your family and friends, they already know you. They love you. They want to hear from you in your own voice. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Over the coming weeks I’ll go into much greater detail about considerations, practices, style choices, and tips to help you become a better presenter. Most examples will focus on presenting at conferences, since most of my experience and expertise is in this arena. Here are a few tips to think about.
Parenting & Public Speaking. Together
The behaviors, experiences, and techniques parents use everyday can improve YOUR NEXT BIG SPEECH. Whether it be using silly voices or just playing with the kids, these actions improve self-confidence, stage presence, and audience engagement. And that’s just the beginning…