Your Next BIG Speech
I remember the very first time I lost a debate to one of my kids. My oldest daughter was about 2 at the time. We were sitting at our kitchen table snacking on some fresh “squeaky cheese” and water. My wife was in the kitchen putting away dishes. In between rounds of emptying the dishwasher and walking to the cabinets, she grabbed her glass of water and took a sip. Rattling around the bottom of her glass was a lemon wedge. Instantly an idea surged into my daughter’s mind. “Daddy, can I put cheese in my water?”
“No, Honey. We don’t put cheese in water. That’s icky.”
“But Mommy has lemon in her water. That’s icky, too.”
And like that, I was stumped. I’m a rational person. Analytical. Open-minded. Fair. And her logic was sound, especially, for a 2 year-old. Who am I to question what flavor water she would enjoy? In a world marketed full of crazy-ass food-in-water combos, whether it’s a lemon, lime, orange crush, cucumber, or cheese curd, they all serve the same purpose – they flavor water.
Impressed, I glanced at my wife with a twinge of uncertainty, laced with an air of acceptance and surrender. “You’re right, Sweet Pea. If you want to put the cheese in your water, go right ahead.” I paused for a second then asked, “So, how does it taste?”
“Good” she said with a satisfying gulp, placing the glass back on the table.
Damn…I got schooled.
I bring this story up, not because I’m a proud father raising a gifted negotiator, which I am; no, I bring it up because I’m a parent, first and foremost. I have a day job. I am a scientist. I have a night job. I teach at the local university. And I have an “other job” as a blogger/podcaster. Regardless of work commitments, I do my best to keep my life’s priorities in order. And that means keeping my family number one. Like most dads, I’ve been shit on, pissed on, puked on, and bled on by my children. I’ve sang songs (rather poorly), I’ve read books, made up stories, played games, dressed up, danced, and had makeovers and pedicures. I’ve used strange voices, made silly faces, pretended to be a hungry giant and a tickle monster. I’ve bellowed and used inside voice. I’ve lectured, instructed, guided, and fought. I’ve done it all, as do all parents. So, what does this have to do with public speaking? EVERYTHING!
In a world where our lives grow increasingly busy, where work never stops, and where we are always connected, we need to find some semblance of balance. We need to develop a kind of synergy between who we are and what we do. If you think about it, you’ll realize that the things in and around our lives are growing increasingly connected. Life never truly stops. It doesn’t neatly switch back and forth between work to home to work, again, like we hope it will. Instead, things migrate. They meander. They blend. That is how being a parent can make you a better public speaker. Because the tools, life-hacks, stories, and actions you use every day can be applied to your next lecture or presentation.
Let me give you some specific examples: parenting voice, clear explanation, and fun. When you present to an audience you will probably feel a lot of anxiety. As a parent, what you say goes. Guess what? An audience doesn’t know what you are going to say. They look toward you as the expert. So…what you say goes. Just make sure not to punish them with angry parent voice.
That brings me to my second point – explanation. I often need to translate pretty complicated material into very clear, concise, and understandable language. Kind of like talking to your kids. Set your language for something your grandparent or 12-year-old can understand.
And lastly, there is fun. Kids live for fun. It’s their driving force. As a parent, you play with your kids. You foster their imagination. Don’t leave this characteristic at home. Bring this sense of joy and enthusiasm to your presentation. Passion and engagement should be brought to every one of your presentations.
Public speaking is NOT a terrible thing. It is simply a culmination of preparation, confidence, and execution. But, that is just the beginning. It’s not enough to simply do, but you should aim to do well. For that, you will need to know your audience. You will need a clear message and an exit strategy. And you will need to put in the right type of effort. Like a lot of things in life, it’s not necessarily the amount of time, but rather the quality of preparation that will make the difference. And, above all else, be clear, be concise, and be somewhat irreverent. Trust me, after enough times in front of a crowd you’ll feel right at home.
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…