Dr. Jennifer Fraser, author of The Bullied Brain, testified to a House of Commons committee in what I consider an Olympic-level performance. She not only had to talk about child abuse and suicide from a very personal place, but she had to keep it together to deliver her message in the limited time the committee gave her. I had the honour of coaching her to help her let the emotion surface—as it should—but then continue on. We both agree, no one could do this alone. I think her performance is athletic. In order to nail the landing, she had to control her body’s response, including her breathing pattern. Here she talks about working with me and the role of emotion in public speaking:
How do you compare to the former President?
The following text is the beginning of Barack Obama’s second inaugural speech. I first published this almost ten years ago. It was a great lesson then, and still is.
Find yourself a timer, press start, and read. Read it as if you’re in front of the hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C. (*Actual hundreds of thousands, not in Trump numbers.)
“Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens. Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution, we affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional, what makes us America, is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Now, press STOP.
It took Barack Obama 70 seconds to say that.
How long did it take you?
People think he’s a good, even great speaker. They even applauded. A lot!
Auditory processing is hard. Giving your listeners time to process one thought is more important than trying to express two or three thoughts in the same amount of time. If you don’t pause to let them process your message, they’ll come away with nothing.
So the next time you find yourself speaking in front of hundreds of thousands of adoring followers, be sure to pause. Long and often. But even if you only have a handful of listeners, my bet is that you could pause longer and more often. Your message, and its weight, will be better received if you do.
Listen to Obama here:
Yes, okay! Storytelling is important! You get it! But how do you FIND the stories to tell—the stories that will elevate your message—and how do you share them for the greatest impact? Can we guarantee that after this workshop you’ll elevate your presentations and be a more engaging conversationalist? Actually, ya, pretty much.
This is for you if you’re interested in:
Strategies to find your stories
How to know if you have a good story
The best way to make your story better
Bonus: 45 minute 1-1 coaching session to be scheduled within the next 4 weeks (value $250)
Click here to learn more about Adele and Mary.
To find out when the next StoryFinding workshop is, contact email@example.com
This is what I presented live to the Impact Hub Ottawa last week. We coaches were asked to explain what we can offer the members in ‘about a minute’. Stories and metaphor can help you get out of your own head and elevate your message at the same time. But it takes courage. I had the late great Irish poet, John O’Donohue help me out. It might have cost me extra seconds, but he’s alway worth it.
Sometimes it’s not the moments before a presentation, podcast, or speech when the stress hits you. Sometimes it’s after it’s all done that anxiety hits hardest: Was I rambling? Did I make sense? Did I really say that?
If you’ve been asked to be a guest on a podcast, even though it seems like it’ll just be a nice conversation, it’s still wise to be prepared. It can reduce stress both before and after your engagement.
I was recently a guest on the Don’t Be a Jerk at Work Podcast, hosted by the fabulous Tara Kemes and Sandy Gunn.
I *might* have some regrets.
I prepared for it. I had been given most of the questions ahead of time, which was really helpful. (Thanks Tara and Sandy!) I had a number of stories queued up and main messages I wanted to convey. Here is what my prep looked like:
Because of this prep, I had an absolute blast. I told a story off the top that I actually hadn’t planned on telling. (On re-listen, I can almost hear the gears turning in my head as I’m deciding whether or not to tell it.) But it worked out and it got me through the most stressful part of any interview: the first three minutes.
I practiced what I do for my clients: I prepared so that I could be myself. I had a great time. Still, I had some post-game regret about that story I hadn’t planned to tell. For me, there is always post-game regret, but I handle it better than I used to. Preparation takes care of a lot of it, but there are always things I think I could have said better, there are things I wish I’d said, and things I wish I didn’t say.
But now I don’t dwell on those. I learn from them, and I move on. In fact, that story is one of the best parts of this interview, but there are some pieces I’ll shift on next telling.
Like burning my hand on a stove element: I pull my hand away and learn my lessons. I don’t keep my hand on the burner anymore. Nothing is perfect. That will always be the case in conversations like podcast or panels.
Preparation helps. Learn your lessons. Don’t keep your hand on the burner.
It’s better to say something imperfectly than stay silent. This world needs you.
Get in touch if you’d like help preparing to be a guest for an upcoming podcast or panel.
Prepare to be yourself.
Last month, Chrystia Freeland’s personal story elevated this announcement. Have a look for yourself. It turned an otherwise run-of-the-mill speech (that we all knew was coming) into an opportunity to connect emotionally with the listener. Well done, Deputy Prime Minister.
Add a story to your presentation. It makes all the difference.
A group of people who know me pretty well threw this together. My heart exploded. Never underestimate the power of words. You can make your own here.
I ask my clients to be brave in many ways every day. Here’s where I dare to practice what I preach, and just put it out there. Imperfection for the win!
This is a story I put together for my storytelling group with Adele Fedorak. Such a great way to practice and deliver stories, and Adele is magical. Brace yourself for this one, though. I had to.
Sarra Ismail and I have put together an important workshop to help people feel more confident pronouncing unfamiliar names.
If you have a name that your colleagues struggle with, we’d be grateful to have a recording of it as a teaching tool for our workshop!
Book a time here for a quick Zoom meeting with Mary so she can get your name right!
Where is your accent from?
Where are you from?
These are questions that can affect people in different ways. For some, it’s a welcome invitation to share information about their rich life experience. But for others—especially those who have been here for years—they are questions they’ve been asked so often that they instantly feel deflated. For yet others, it’s like a smack in the face, making them feel that they don’t belong in this country. I’ve heard from a lot of the latter. Sometimes it’s what brings them to me. They want to sound like they were born and raised in English Canada, just so they can stop getting these questions.
My job is to point out that they are not flawed. This country is.
Fight the urge to ask the question. You can’t know its impact. Where your conversation partner is from is something they may bring up if it’s relevant to the conversation and if they want to share it with you. Until then, think of other things to ask. You know, like those things you ask people who sound the same as you.