THOUGHTS ON POWER & PUBLIC SPEAKING by (me!) sandra, ttgp
power was not an easy word for me to select and place
on my word wall. it makes me incredibly uncomfortable
and so i decided rather than avoid it; i should live with it for
a while. stare at it. glance at it in passing. sit next to it. let it live over my shoulder. perhaps with the hope i could desensitize myself to it
i admit to some self-consciousness when others see my word wall. power? -wonder what they think, but never ask, and find it's not volunteered.
and so when i saw donny deutsch's recent program, becoming a power player, it impacted me powerfully in many ways
one of his guests, daymond john, author of display of power, was especially wonderful to listen to because a) we have the shared experience of having a gun held to our head, and b) as he quoted his mother's definition of power, it became my favorite definition of power EVER:
/and wish i could get it verbatim.. but close to this: "when you don't have to ask someone else's permission to experience pleasure; that's power."
i love that! i know many people missing out on a lot of good times waiting for someone else to green light their being, idea or vision. waiting for permission to act, to create, to have fun, to speak, to share an opinion; to do anything. i was stuck on that island of endless frustration myself for a while.. but no more! as my life clearly shows.
and donny had daymond talk some about being held at gunpoint. he said, (paraphrasing) "that's not power.. when you have to use a weapon.. that's not power. power is in forgiveness.. in having and chasing a dream.. "
and i so deeply agree. it seems a shame to me.. a problem really with our lack of vocabulary that we use the word "power" to describe cowardice or angry acts. the "power" of a person with a weapon; the power of controlling others through intimidation, fear, threats or status.
and then use that exact same word, -power- to describe the ability to acheive goals, to positively influence others (teachers), to save lives (nurses/doctors), enlighten the masses (scientists), persevere through set-backs, obstacles, and challenges, the -power- to create
unfortunately, the uglier definition of power resides in me.
the word reminds me of being bullied as a child by gang members.
reminds me of a 250lb alcoholic man pushing my little 3rd grade self down the hallway;
the threat of a fist. the threat of a knife.
reminds me of having my very life in the hands of a serial rapist/murderer; a bankrobber.
the word power reminds me of guns. and the word power reminds me of the ugly people in the arts/craft industry who prevented my work from being showcased or recognized.
i've struggled with this topic before.. in the archives somewhere, when my friend (and former writing coach) cindy fisher luck gave me a writing exercise in which i answered the question
"what would your power suit look like?"
but i have two really wonderful definitions to associate with this word now. daymond's mom definition, and then...
melissa boyd's definition. another guest on donny's power player show. a young teacher.
and bless her brave heart.. she got up there with a group of highly experienced, confident power-playing men, -dressed in red- which i'm sure she's been told is a power color for women - and even though her voice quivered.. she continued on. it seemed not fair to me. like putting a rookie in the ring with four three time world champions. and with her self-confidence in question.. no matter what the men said or did to lift and applaud her work -her power- as a teacher; it read, patronizing.
this is a real bummer and i know it well. this ability to speak in public.. in front of large audiences, in boardrooms, or classrooms, or on national television, without your voice quivering..
my God! -do people who can do this naturally realize what a gift they've been given?!?
my ongoing battle with public speaking includes.. crying through an entire reading in a woman's workshop; hands and paper shaking through an entire reading ( i mean that paper was SHAKING! not vibrating just a little) in a social studies class... knocking knees and sweaty palms for numerous speeches throughout college; some strange non-stop yawning nervous reaction; and a few times where i couldn't get my teeth to stop chattering and my mouth to open all the way. i've spit out total non-sense when i had too much to say, and have gone totally mute for the same reason.
if i had any common sense i would have given up a long time ago.
but -thank God- innate in me is this little tiny somethin'... this little rebel seed... this irrational determination to conquer my fears
and so when my friend john told me about toastmasters, i checked it out.
toastmasters is one of the greatest organizations of all time. i'm sure of it.
and i lucked out with an extraordinary group of supportive founders/some similarly frightened peers when i joined pleasanton toastmasters many years ago.
i'd rather link, than repeat common details: http://www.pleasantontoastmasters.com
but what a valuable, wonderful, helpful experience this was! over the course of i don't know how many months (years), i gave 10 speeches; listened to hundreds; evaluated many, and earned my ctm certificate. i am a certified toastmaster.
( i should get that certificate out and hang it somewhere.. considering how often i forget)
of course my favorite part was writing the speeches. every prompt in the module inspiration for a creative story.. this made the whole thing possible.. if i had written something i was proud of, this helped me unstick myself from my chair and make my awkward way to the podium.
i am never not nervous. but always i completed the task, and several times i won the best speaker award, and many times i won the best evaluator award and sometimes even the table topics award. this did, i'd like to say wonders, but
this did help my self esteem and build my confidence. plus i made some new friends.
i'm too embarrassed to tell you how hard i worked to prepare for the delivery of each of my ten speeches. how often i rehearsed. how i read them out loud over and over and over, and read them outloud while jogging up and down stairs into tape recorders..
because sometimes when i'm nervous i lose air -get that super high pitch disappearing voice thing going on- and i knew if i could breathe correctly while speaking, this would help
i'm embarrassed because the speeches were sometimes only 3-5 minutes long, and i could write them fairly quickly, but saying them out loud? i don't know.. maybe i'm being too hard on myself.. is 86 hours prep time for a 3-5 minute speech reasonable for beginners?
some people -who i also do not like- would show up and say, "i wrote this speech at lunch today.. rehearsed once; ready to go"
what i have learned since that time, is that public speaking is like golf. -at least, it's like i hear people who golf, describe the golfing experience. take a break and you start again from scratch.
i think it is recorded pretty well in this blog of mine..
the nerves i've had to conquer, over-ride, ignore, co-exist with to guest appear on in a word with jim ott & kathy cordova. the amount of preparation.
and it's not been perfect.. i have my quivers & stutters... but overall it is a positive and rewarding experience (i'm hopeful melissa boyd feels the same).
i am most comfortable though talking about mag time frames. i suppose this is because i've been talking about them, and creating them for five years now.
preparing without consciously preparing. teaching workshops. talking to store owners. the tradeshow. the scrapbook show. my little 3 minute news segments on various stations. making them at parties. -sharing with anyone who will listen..
so in this recent segment on conversations with robin fahr -where i'm smiling really big-
it's because i'm really happy.
i told my friends catherine and carla recently, " i could stand next to oprah on national tv and not be nervous talking about or making mag time frames"
and i write her everyday with that dream.
and it seems a good thing to mention before closing, how grateful i am to the teachers, and for the curriculum in our elementary schools here. the kids, beginning in 2nd grade, and some even in 1st, are required to give 1-3 minute speeches once a week to their friends in the classroom.
it's like a toastmasters marathon for children. brilliant! by the time they graduate elementary school, they have more experience giving speeches than most professional adults i know today, and it shows in their confident and entertaining deliveries.
"to the power of trying! -and teaching! -and learning! -and praying!" ~amen.