There is nothing normal or natural about speaking in public–even if you’re an attorney. I believe that this is where much of the fear that most people have about public speaking comes from.
Think about it… public speaking basically means you’re speaking to a person or a group of people that you really don’t know and you’re trying to get them to care about what you’re saying. Or trying to say. When public speaking, your job is to take the unnatural (you standing up in front of total strangers) and make it seem natural.
That’s the contract you make when public speaking, the second you stand up on your feet and start talking. Gulp.
My guess is there are less than 1% of the “Marlon Brando’s” of public speaking out there… the rest of us have to work at it.
Often, as attorneys, it is presumed that you are to be competent in your public speaking and communications abilities, but I would venture to say most people I’ve worked with in the legal profession, whether you thrive on jury trials or never see the inside of the courtroom, only use 15% of their true public speaking communications power, and that’s being conservative.
Don’t confuse the cart before the horse when public speaking
There are a million different approaches to helping you become a more effective at public speaking; These include how to speak, stand, sit, and move around the room with intention, using a powerful voice, use your breath, utilize eye contact, and deliver your words with gusto and energy. In addition to speed, and well-placed pacing and timing and the power of the pause, and picture your audience in their underwear when stage fright hits… (a tip that has never worked for me).
You’ve probably heard all the myriad of public speaking tips before, and have seen a million checklists for how to properly engage an audience to add to your public speaking and presentation arsenal. (If you haven’t, you’re lucky.) To me, this kind of “surface work” is no different than an acting teacher telling his actors to “stand up there and “move me” in that scene.” Well, sure, that’s the goal, isn’t it? But how does one do that without knowing where and how to move your audience?
I can say with 100% certainty that absolutely none of these public speaking communication approaches will ever take you where you need to go and lack any real lasting power in getting your audience to be moved to action, without this one essential idea that needs to be a reality grounded in your being: if you’re unable to awaken to the right emotional state before the story you’re trying to communicate, everything in communication will only be about surface techniques, and you will lose your audience. This applies not only to your ability to tell a great story, but in the creation and construction of great, memorable stories–whether you’re appearing before city council, legislature, planning commissions, civic groups, company employees, media interviews on behalf of your clients, or in front of the judge and jury.
Your job when public speaking is to help tell the kind of stories that get your audiences to wake up and listen deeply to what you’re communicating and to want to fight for your cause-the winning story.
The true power of the winning story (whether in the courtroom or boardroom) is not necessarily about the great facts, or how adequately you put together the scenes of the story ,or breathing and timing and “blocking” in front of your audience (which all certainly help stuff…). The true power of the winning story is an inside job. Emotions don’t float around on the outside of us, waiting for us to pluck them out of the sky. We have to find them deep inside us. And when we use them properly, the magic begins.
That’s how you transform the unnatural into the natural. That’s when the audience (no matter the size or group) says, “He’s talking to me.”
Your greatest communication instrument is already inside you. Your job is to awaken to that “emotional state” that will show up in every area of your practice, inside and outside the courtroom. When you’re able to gain access to this power, this will make every technique, tool, tip and take-away infinitely easier to digest.
Here are some suggestions for supercharging your public speaking and communications effectiveness:
- Take an improv class (practice listening, breathing, trusting, “being in the moment”).
- Hire a “focus group” to provide you strictly storytelling feedback, not necessarily related to your case.
- Drop into an open mike (they are all over the city) and present something—a stand-up routine, a poem, short story, a personal story.
- Go to the theater with your husband, wife, or other friends and discuss what worked and didn’t work on stage. See the performance through the lens of both performer, director, and playwright.
- If you have children, request that you tell stories in their classroom. If you don’t have children, ask a local teacher if you can tell stories in their classroom. Children will provide you the single most honest feedback of your life and perhaps your greatest opportunity to grow as an effective speaker and communicator.
WORKING WITH YOU AND YOUR TEAM
I’d love to discuss working with you and your team on your next case. Feel free to give me a call. Here are ways to benefit from Tell The Winning Story:
- Pre-trial and Jury Trial Consulting
- Online Coaching and Witness Preparation
- Law Firm CLE Customized Workshops
- Executive Silver/ Gold/ Platinum Coaching Programs
- Monthly CLE Accredited Workshops