We ventured down south for a day of motivation, inspiration and empowerment.
We came back up north disappointed and disengaged but nevertheless with happy feet.
Here are the four things we took away.
1. The importance of NOT being idle.
There are lots of ways to get your message across when speaking to an audience:
Some use passion. High energy, high emotion.
Some use humour. Jokes, wit, self-deprecation.
Most have an amazing story to share about how they overcame incredible adversity and defied all the odds.
The best are able to weave all these aspects (and more) into an experience which engages and inspires us long after they leave the stage and we leave the building.
Having an amazing story on its own isn’t enough though, not anymore. With Netflix and YouTube, we can go and see an amazing story every night of the week if we really want to. Whether it be Making a Murderer or Fyre or a Ted Talk there are a lot of crazy, unbelievable, miraculous stories out there to hear and as callous as it might sound…
When we go and see a ‘motivational’ speaker we, of course, acknowledge their hardship and genuinely respect their resilience but, perhaps selfishly, what we really want to know is how we can be better. How can we take their struggle and their positivity and apply it to our own lives?
The talent in presenting is in making us think that we could have your story.
When you lean too heavily on the ‘things’ that have happened to you and concentrate too long on the minutiae of your experience then you begin to lose credibility and risk the notion that you don’t really care about us, your audience.
You care more about everybody knowing your plight than about using that plight to help others.
2. The importance of being earnest.
When hosting an event, it is important to keep a firm grip on why you are doing it. Even more important is that those in attendance understand that message, that ‘why’ and grab on to it with you.
What are you trying to say?
What point do you want to make?
Are you just telling me your story?
Why do I need to know?
What does this have to do with me?
It doesn’t really matter how you get the message across or the path you forge to be honest. You can make people laugh, make them cry, make them think. Do it by hook or by crook I say but whatever you do, whichever path you choose, you had better keep returning home to that message or you will find yourself walking off stage in silence while the audience checks their Instagram, occasionally looking up to see if you are done yet.
Comedians have been using this trick forever and refer to it as a ‘call back’. They take a joke which went down well at the start of the show, refer to it throughout the set and again at the end.
For the comic, call back jokes are there to bookend the performance with big laughs and to serve as a persistent reminder of their message - I am funny.
For the speaker, call backs tie the loose ends of a story in a bow for the audience and justify the point of listening to you. They reinforce their message - I did this, you can do it too.
If you ignore the message. If you tell the audience several times how badly you’ve lost it (as was the case on this occasion) and don’t arc back to the ‘why’, the reason for doing all of this in the first place, then you are destined to go out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Don’t believe me? Just look at Roger - http://ow.ly/WUbZ30oemIW
This is what happens when the rabbit hole you take your audience down leads nowhere – Uncontrollable shaking.
This is what happens to your audience when you don’t bring it back to the ‘why’ - Bulging eyes.
This is what happens when your message isn’t clear and the resolution your audience desperately craves never comes – Frantic teeth rattling
This how the WABT team were left sitting for the best part of the afternoon session although, unlike poor Roger, we couldn’t just leap up from our chairs and blurt out the end of the bit to relieve the tension. By the end of the day we were left so drained by tale after tale of 'incredible journeys' with no real relatability that I think all of us would have opted for the dip rather than see another speaker take the stage.
Be frivolous with everything else but please, be serious about the message.
3. The importance of walking with purpose.
The centrepiece of the weekend was an inspirational fire walk! Bare foot across burning hot coals. A public display of mind over matter and proof that you can conquer that which intimidates most.
In a day including 8 speakers, each allowed 30 – 45 minutes to impart their wisdom, it was a throwaway line from the instructor which rang loudest and had the biggest impact.
She spoke passionately about the history of fire walking and its tradition everywhere from Australia to Africa to America. She remarked that in all these places, despite their wildly different cultures and beliefs, the key to conquering the fire is always the same - purpose.
Whether you are an indigenous Australian, an African tribesman, a native American or a Scottish bloke in a car park in Leeds, to get to the other side you need to ‘walk as if you know where you are going’.
There it is!
A message as I live and breathe.
Something we can take from one situation (a fire walk) and apply to other areas of our lives.
Something we can use to reassess our own goals and routes towards them. A notion, an idea that if we have a target, something we want to achieve, then to be successful we should head towards that goal with a clarity of vision that does not allow for petty distractions like doubt or burny toes.
Check out the WABT Twitter for the evidence - http://ow.ly/NNm830oemUh
Forget about everything else. Keep your eyes on the prize and walk with purpose - Great message!
4. The importance of being yourself.
Sincerity always wins as far as I am concerned.
You might not be funny. That’s OK, you don’t have to be.
You might not be able to project your passion like Dr King. That’s OK, who can?
You might not even think that your story is the most interesting or worthy but that’s OK too, it doesn’t have to be. It isn’t a competition to see who has been through the most or worst.
People are clever, and selfish. They don’t need to be spoon fed a diet of waffle and buzzwords to be inspired. They are perfectly capable of relating lots of different ideas back to their own lives and circumstances. They are perfectly capable of filling in blank spaces with empathy. People have been finding meaning in the seemingly mundane for centuries.
Your job as a speaker is to tell them why they should find meaning in what you have to say, not tell them what that meaning is.
If you believe in what you say, then you will be sincere when saying it. If you are sincere then you will be credible, and if you are credible then people will care about what you are saying and will give you their attention and respect.
The moment that you compromise that sincerity, for a cheap laugh, for a hashtag or worse, to try and sell something, then you undermine the integrity of your message and take a hit that is very difficult to recover from.
Don’t do it.
Just be yourself, it’s what you have most practice at.
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