Toastmasters

Taking a professional public speaking class will give you the communication skills necessary to engage City Hall. Learning from experienced people will provide critical insights into both writing and presenting your materials effectively.


Finding Your Voice

All of us has a unique way of speaking one on one. I use uhms and ahhs both at the Podium and when talking with friends. Speaking in our native way at the Podium actually allows your audience people to connect to the message. The reason for that is I am congruent. I am not pretending to be a Kennedy, Reagan or Clinton – I am being my Self.

Our idiosyncrasies are who we are. Be pleased in your uniqueness and stay focused on your message. You are here to tell a story: nothing more. Oscar Wilde summed it up perfectly: “Be yourself: everyone else is already taken”.


Hands

I believe hands speak their own language at the Podium. As a presenter I am not overly animated. While presenting I let my hands communicate unfettered. My opinion of speakers who use choreographed hand movements is negative. To me they appear contrived.


Defensiveness

All of us have blind spots. These are the ways of being that we unknowingly use to keep people distant. Public speaking tends to exacerbate them. The adrenaline people experience at the Podium will cause some speakers to become defensive; fight or flight.

Three weeks prior to my course beginning I learned about some of my behaviors. When I became defensive my chin would go up and one shoulder would drop slightly down. Essentially, I was looking down my nose at people with a chip on my shoulder. This stance did not help me connect with people.


Receiving Feedback

Public speaking programs will give you feedback on a wide range of topics including your defensive strategies. This isn't criticism. It's information that can be quite useful. I remember experiencing reactivity when I heard about the chin up piece. I was also encouraged to be curious about it, and I was. That was the beginning of my exploration of my rebellious side.

The first step to a being a better presenter involves becoming aware of my defensive strategies. After that comes the simple act of acknowledging that I do them. This isn't about guilt, rather its about me shining a light on a behavior that I want to change. Recognizing that I am the kind of person who can be rebellious brings me to the place of choice. From that place I can either: act on my message or become reactive and act out.

What Is Is, is perhaps the most potent part of this equation. It involves an appreciation of all my ways of being, including my Rebel side. In not denying or resisting who I am, the issue tends not to persist. The statement, “that which I resist persists”, is true, and so is its opposite corollary.

The videos taken during my training do not show any evidence of my chin up. They will however show the other piece of the Rebel; the control over others. I got plenty of feedback on that issue, and I worked through that too. I am confident you will get feedback on all of your strategies. I believe you will become a better speaker if you can stay curious about them.


Blame

A presentation for change always contains an action request. It is important that the City know clearly what you want. People who engage in blame often fail to ask for action, and are disappointed when they get none.

The use of blame invariably leads to escalation and finger pointing. My original concern has now shifted to name calling. Remember this basic law of human dynamics: people will usually defend themselves against personal attack before fixing the problem.

In not fighting City Hall, you can shape the conversation instead. This is far more potent than blame at getting things resolved.


Transforming Anger

Standing against something or someone is the stance of the Rebel. It is also where escalation and blame occur. Things tend to get very personal as people squabble about who is right. Rebelliousness is frequently associated with adolescent behavior.

On the other hand, standing forth and articulating a solution will attract an audience's attention, even if they don't agree with you. It's an adult place that doesn't demand conformance. It gives people something to ponder and invites dialogue. Standing forth is how conversations are started and shaped.

I believe you will find writing and speaking to be easier if you move away from blame. Rather than presenting a litany of complaints, I propose that you take each of your concerns and offer a solution with it. Showing how it impacts others and proposing a solution will get peoples' attention.

All of my presentations pivoted around the blights and the relationship of the City Manager and Council. Each showed a different perspective, and offered a proposed solution. I addressed each of the many impacts: economic, social, financial, etc. I did not have to repeat myself or engage in blame.

A varied and solution based speaking approach will get results that elude presenters who engage in blame.


The Marlboro Man

Asking for support can be challenging for many people, yet it is an important part of a speaking campaign. If you are like me, you will encounter obstacles. Writer's block was and still is an issue that I confront. Having a person who will listen and hear what you're up against, will help you work through what you are confronting.

Speaking programs are taught by people who have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They will help you stay focused and on track with the issues you face. There may even be individuals who will be interested in joining you in speaking for change too.


Dress Code

Your City is a multi-billion dollar corporation and merits respect, even if you disagree with its policies. Taking the time to dress appropriately will add credibility to your message. I used the Mayor's attire as a guide for my dress code.

One other thought: don't forget to silence your cell phone when you enter the Council Chambers.


Beyond the Podium

As you become more attuned to the people around you through public speaking; your life will change. I am certain that you will notice a personal reduction in reactivity and defensiveness. Consequently, people will likely want to be more engaged with you in your endeavors.

Taking a public speaking course can be one of the greatest gifts you give yourself. It was for me.