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FIGHT THE FEAR

We’re all frightened creatures inside. Frightened someone is going to find us out. Frightened that we’re not really up to it.

Even the groom preparing for his wedding speech. Will it ‘come out’ in the way they want it to ‘come out’? I say, ‘remember you were there, when you first met your bride. You were there, when you asked her to marry you. You’re not – to the best of my knowledge! – making anything up. Just let yourself remember. What was she wearing? What did she say? How did you feel? Tell the story’.


SEEING IS BELIEVING

I often use the idea of a snapshot. A favourite memory is of a US TV series THE GOLDEN GIRLS. One of the characters, Dorothy, had a mother. And the mother, Sophia, would start telling a story with these words, ‘picture it…’. There would be a scene – at the beach, at a party. And there was a girl, a beautiful girl. ‘And that girl was me’, she would say. And there you were, taken back goodness-knows how many years. To another world, another life.


TELL THE TALE

If you have a speech to give, you might like to tell stories. I always send my ‘best men’ and ‘grooms’, and ‘fathers’ or ‘mothers of the bride’ looking for stories. Talking to others who were part of the story. Looking at old photos. Listening to old pop songs. Whatever can take you back to the origins of that story. I promise you, it would help you bring your story to life.


TAKE CENTRE STAGE

Sometimes the wedding speaker has a real wobble, about the impending performance. One father of the bride seriously asked me if he really needed to be in the same room as the guests when he gave his speech. He thought he would feel more comfortable if he wasn’t having to look at anyone. ‘Or’, he said, ‘couldn’t someone else actually deliver the speech?’

‘But’, I said, ‘think about your daughter. Yes, perhaps someone else could tell some of the stories you are going to tell. But no-one can tell them from your point of view, with your special relationship with both the story and the people in the story.’

And that’s it. One of the first questions to ask, when you are needing to do a speech, or a presentation, or speak at a meeting, is why you? Why can’t someone else do it?


DO IT YOUR WAY

And the answer needs to focus around why you are special. Because you have to believe that you are special. Only you can tell the story in your way. Just as I am the only one who can coach like me. I’m not saying others don’t teach exactly the same skills. But there is only one me. And only one you.

You might feel that you don’t show the real ‘you’. Or that people don’t see or hear the ‘real’ you. Your voice is an enormous part of you. If you keep it locked away, then something important will remain hidden. I help clients to find their real voice.


NEVER LOOK BACK

What should you focus on when you’re speaking? Number one rule: you can’t go backwards. If you said ‘right’ when you meant to say ‘left’ it could be best to simply own-up. You’re a human being not a robot, as I regularly tell my clients. Any actors would confess to you, if you caught them in the right mood, that it ‘goes wrong’ on pretty well a nightly basis. Sometimes when ‘it’ goes ‘wrong’ it might end-up feeling more ‘right’. Sometimes our instincts bamboozle us into taking a different route as we speak a line or explain an idea. And our audience seems to understand better than if we’d done as we intended.

This story originated in so many places, you won’t need to go far to find yet another version. A woman is visiting New York. ‘How do I get to Carnegie Hall’, one of New York’s most famous concert halls, she ask someone who looks as if they know their way around. ‘Practise lady, practise…’, is the response she gets.

And that’s the truth of it. Not always the truth we want to hear. We need to practise.

Voice is something you do: it’s a series of actions, a series of moves. It could start with an intention, a need. I need to seize this moment, we think. The time is right, to seal the deal, to talk the talk. If you’re going to make a move, you need to breathe. If you’re going to speak, you need to move your vocal muscles. You need to co-ordinate your thoughts and your feelings and your breath and your vocal muscles. All at once. Is it any wonder that it can so easily go wrong? Especially if you don’t rehearse?


CARPE DIEM

Do you play a sport? Have you played a musical instrument?

Three important things here. First it isn’t much good just sitting and thinking about playing the game or the music, you have to get out there in the field and be active.

And if you’re going to make the best moves, a bit of practice won’t go amiss.

And finally, the experience of being in the game or the performance, can be one of the most exciting parts of anyone’s life.

Yes, it could all go very ‘wrong’. But you just might score the winning goal, or hit the highest note. And you just might get the best applause of the evening.

So do you want to miss out on all this? Go through life not proving your worth, or showing people what you’re really capable of?

Use your talents, make the best of yourself. Everyone can be creative, in their own way. A bit like the princess in the story, you might have to ‘kiss a lot of frogs’ before you find your prince. But is that any reason not to stretch a few new muscles, and find out what you’re made of?


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Condident Speaking a Practical Guide by Alan Woodhouse

Publications

Introducing Confident Speaking: A Practical Guide [Paperback/ Ebook] published by Icon Books

Introducing Confident Speaking, by voice, acting, communication and public speaking coach Alan Woodhouse, teaches you to express yourself more clearly, persuasively and confidently. Alan offers advice on everything from business presentations to wedding speeches and preparing for job interviews. Available online from Amazon and Waterstones.

Order on Amazon.co.uk