When I was in year four, my primary school teacher asked me to read a prayer at assembly. It was beautiful poetry and I still recall the surprising power of the words moving through me when I read them aloud to my class as practice.
But when it came to the real deal, I read from my page. Monotone and dull.
No one was moved.
Even at 9 years of age, something in me held back.
“Who are you to be so big and bold?”
said the voice.
Years later I would remember that performance and be disappointed.
I’m sure no one else thought about my lacklustre performance ever again! And while I’m certainly not beating up nine-year old Rachael for her poor stagecraft, this story illustrates something I now hold dear: that when we speak we have an opportunity.
And when we don’t fully grab the opportunity, we never get to know if our words could have rippled.
Whether I was a big important person was beside the point. I had a chance to share beautiful words that could have moved people – and instead I read from my page for six minutes.
Orating your ‘lunch n learn’ on streamflow in the upper Yarra from a pulpit might be a bit much! But equally you don’t need to hide your knowledge, passion or vision for your work.
A sign for me that a speaker has a block or something to work through is when I hear a word in their rehearsal that doesn’t quite hit home. Sometimes it’s jargon, a euphemism, or simply a feeling that they’ve said thing that doesn’t land in me. I’d say that without fail there is always a little fear that, once worked through, results in clearer language, more convincing body language and a more powerfully appropriate delivery.
Fears can seem insurmountable, not important enough to address, or inconsequential. But once you name them, the reflection to get to the other side may be quicker than you think.
You can then fully turn your focus to the impact and ripples of what you have to say.
Image: Min An @minan1398