The Principles of Transformational Speaking
Are you a change agent? Do you see a situation that needs to be transformed and have something to say about it? Perhaps you offer an essential service or an inventive solution that helps people address challenge and transition. You may be a visionary leader of an organization catalyzing social or environmental change, or a healer who supports others through health or spiritual crises. Perhaps you have written a book you know in your heart can make a significant difference or created impressive works of art or music that deserve a wider audience. You could be a far-seeing businessperson or a spiritual elder or a concerned citizen with thoughtful ideas or a passion for your organization, your community, or your world. Whatever it is that commands your attention, you want your words to matter. And you know that by becoming a great speaker, your voice will be heard.
The question, of course, is how? This book offers the liberating and proven method I have been offering my clients through Real Speaking workshops and coaching since 1991. It has evolved through the synthesis and integration of my own journey of speaking and the personal work in which I have engaged to live with a sense of meaning and genuine self-expression. Real Speaking has supported countless people of purpose in speaking publicly, with passion and ease, about what matters most to them. In the following pages, I'll show you the way to inspire transformational change through your own spoken word.
As an executive vice president of the worldwide National Speakers Association in the mid-1980s and an admitted "speaker junkie," I've seen literally thousands of presenters in action. There are two kinds of memorable speakers. There are those who impress us with their delivery and style and cause us to say, "He was a great speaker!"-- then return to our lives and our work unchanged. Sure, these speakers may give a great performance and even get a standing ovation, but it's akin to a rock concert where we see a favorite act, work ourselves into fervor, and then go home to life as usual.
Then there are those who arouse us on an inner level, awakening us to what we care about and prompting serious inquiry about the changes we're committed to making. That's transformational speaking, and it's rare indeed. The best speakers aren't "canned," predictable, or practiced students of technique. They come to their craft in their own inimitable way. They celebrate who they are and bring the essence of their true selves forward. They touch our hearts. Their speaking is not a performance; it is uncommon self-expression. It's not only professional but also human. And we leave changed by being there, knowing that what we experienced is real.
Transformational speakers shape-shift what people believe is possible. They address real issues without fear or apology. They are catalysts for transforming lives. They alter the course of events by inspiring others to take an action that ripples through their circles of influence. They plant seeds of needed change that will impact the future of individuals, families, workplaces, communities, nations, and our sacred earth.
Anyone who is committed to becoming a true agent of change can become a transformational speaker. If you want to spread the word of what matters to you to an audience, becoming a transformational speaker will allow you to inspire others, influence what people believe and do, and alter events. But you can't get there with tired techniques and scripting that obscure your deep caring and capacity to inspire.
In today's climate of distrust of much of our leadership, speakers who are perfectly rehearsed and claim to have the answers cause us to be very suspicious indeed. In politics, such speakers have made promises they haven't kept. In companies, they have delivered flavors of the month with flair, proposing systems change that fades into oblivion almost overnight. In the nonprofit world, they have prompted us to wonder how this organization is different from hundreds of others and whether the requested donation will become a breaking-news scandal. In personal growth or health, they tell us something we've already heard and tried to no avail. Our challenging times call for communicators who aren't slick or superficial and don't pretend to know all the answers to the question of how to create a world that works. Instead, we need people who are passionately committed to healthy people, healthy communities, and a healthy planet to inspire meaningful dialogue and real action.
Such change artists are everywhere. Paul Hawken's best-selling book Blessed Unrest identifies "a worldwide grassroots movement of hope and humanity" comprising more than one million organizations and untold numbers of engaged citizens passionately committed to creating a new story about human life on planet Earth. To create that better story, the most important voice to hear is your own so you can energetically engage in what calls to you. Then you can't help but speak up and out, because you are stepping into your destiny work in this vast movement for "hope and humanity."
Transformational Speaking is written expressly for speakers and would-be speakers involved in this global groundswell with no name, change agents and visionary messengers from all walks of life who wish to use their voices in the service of change. You don't have to be a Susan B. Anthony or a Martin Luther King Jr. to speak out. If you're tired of the old story and long to tell a better one that uplifts both you and others, then Transformational Speaking will show you how to do just that.
Recently I had a conversation with journalist and women's rights advocate Gloria Steinem, who inspired enormous social change by committing herself to a new story that would make the world better for all because it honored women. As we talked about public speaking, she said she began speaking because she had to. The opportunities were there to reach people in a way her writing did not. She allowed, too, that she still gets nervous and her mouth goes dry when she gets up to speak. Surprised, I asked, "What do you think that's about?" She replied, "It's like malaria; you recover but the fever keeps coming back. It happens to me when the stakes are high."
Today the stakes are high. It is time for many voices to be heard. This is not the moment of singular heroes so much as it is a time for many to take single heroic actions. By telling a better story -- a transformational story that awakens others to new possibilities -- you plant seeds of change. The transformational story comes from deep within you and reflects what you most care about. Although people can and will argue with your interpretation of the facts, no one can argue with the truth of your experience, making a well-told story the most effective tool for persuasion. You know it is taking wing in those moments when your audience is completely silent as they track every word, when the applause is sustained, and especially when you hear later that what you said and the way you said it inspired change.
Transformational speaking recognizes that we are all originals, nowhere else duplicated. This is an indigenous teaching -- that we are all "original medicine," born to this earth with gifts and talents that are ours and ours alone. If we do not bring those gifts and talents forward, they are lost to the world for all time. Yet in a society that teaches conformity, finding the part of ourselves able and willing to stand out can be a stretch.
And so it goes with speaking. You can learn techniques to alleviate anxiety and practice skills that get you through a presentation with some degree of comfort. Or you can go on an inner journey to find what you really have to say and your singular way of saying it. You mine the deep well of your life experience and give voice to what has heart and meaning for you. You do it your way because you are an original, and only then do you work with techniques to refine your skills and meet people where they are. Then you can stand out. And inherent in standing out is facing your fears of being seen for who you are, what you love, and the position you are taking on what really matters to you.
Speaking techniques, applied prematurely, will only distance you from your greatness and from the best you have to give an audience. So I urge you to give up the notion that becoming a great speaker is about learning techniques to "fix" how you speak and instead join me in an adventure that takes you to the discovery of what is yours and yours alone to say.
The following six principles, expanded upon in chapter 1 and reinforced throughout this book, comprise the foundation for becoming a transformational speaker: Principle #1:
You are an original, nowhere else duplicated. Principle #2:
You are a hero on a journey, and your journey defines your message. Principle #3:
The world we experience, both personal and planetary, reflects and expresses who we are individually and collectively. Principle #4:
You can't figure it all out, you can't make anything happen, and you can't make anyone do anything. Every one of us holds a different strand of the web of life and we each must heed our own call. Principle #5:
Use your authentic power with those who can hear you rather than the force of argument with those who can't. Principle #6:
You must be personally sustainable to do the work of change. Cherish your precious, worthy self.
In the following pages, we first journey to the heart of speaking, finding, honoring, and cultivating our original medicine. Next we'll learn more about the art of speaking as we discover how to meet audience members where they are with a masterful presentation. Finally we'll explore the energetics of speaking, which includes personal sustainability and the emerging arena of energy management. The resource section at the end of the book contains practical tools to enhance your proficiency and professionalism with written communications to help you manage logistics like a pro.
Transformational Speaking invites you to consider questions you may not typically contemplate in the busyness of life. To get full value from our journey together, take the time to actively engage in the questions asked throughout the book. I urge you to dig deep to explore your values, your life experience, and what you stand for, as such inquiry is integral to the journey.
Sound like hard work? It's actually fun and liberating to open up in ways you haven't yet imagined to create connection and catalyze change. As you commit to becoming a transformational speaker, you will realize greater self-trust in all of your communications, whether you are speaking with one person or thousands. And there's no reason not to get started right now, because you have nothing to lose except preconceived notions about yourself and about speaking that keep you from powerfully expressing yourself in a way that will ignite real and lasting change. You have within you the capacity to be a transformational speaker and to tell a better story that can change the world. Whenever a feeling is voiced with truth and frankness, whenever a deed is the clear expression of sentiment, a mysterious and far-reaching influence is exerted. At first it acts on those who are inwardly receptive. But the circle grows larger and larger. The root of all influence lies in one's own inner being: given true and vigorous expression in word and deed, its effect is great. The effect is but the reflection of something that emanates from one's own heart. -- From I Ching or Book of Changes
Excerpted from Transformational Speaking by Gail Larsen. Copyright © 2009 by Gail Larsen. Excerpted by permission of Celestial Arts, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.