Nothing taught me more about public speaking and facilitation than studying clown. Ironically, clown is a practice that involves very little talking.
In clown, we listen closely to how we are feeling because we know the audience will pick it up. It’s vulnerable, but also the key to wrapping the audience around your little finger.
This step in listening – first to ourselves and then the audience – is possible after ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable’, which I covered in the last post.
‘Fake it until you make it’ only takes you so far
What I learned in clown about listening goes against much of the advice I see given to public speakers. If the clown ever fakes something (which she often does) she let’s the audience in on it. This brings the audience in to the show – think engagement. Faking it, by contrast, sets up a divide.
Listeners know when you’re genuine
While starting with a smile can work magic, actively covering up your discomfort on stage can look a little weird. It’s like trying to convince a good friend you’re fine when you’re not: either your friend will pick up your true mood, or interpret your behaviour as a sign you aren’t happy to see them.
Tune into your audience
If you’re trying desperately to look tough and happy when you’re very, very nervous, you’ll get tied up in your own thoughts. Get comfortable with the discomfort, and then turn your attention to your audience.
Break down the fourth wall and let the magic happen
The fourth wall is the imaginary line between actors and audience in a stage production. Clowns break down that wall, by being part of the audience and vice versa. Develop your skill of listening to bring your audience past that wall. They’ll get more out of the talk, and you will feel it.
Delve more into this topic in one-on-one speaker coaching with Rachael West. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.