Step Five – Learn To Play In The Open.
By Eric Stone
Context and Premise: The public realm within which we deliver speeches, presentations or any kind of performance is an “open and highly visible realm.” It is very often what throws us off or creates anxiety, for we sense this high visibility but have not fully integrated it. The theatrical aspect of any speech or presentation is important to understand. The “space” as such, in which we present or speak is 3-D, experiential, ready for meaning, and more important open.
Is it so difficult to accept? Did you ever walk in early before your presentation when nobody is there yet? What frightens us is the demand the empty stage is making on us to fill it with life and presence. These aspects of “presentation life” if you will, need to be filled three-dimensionally. This is where your technique and skill set play a major role.
When I step in front of that group, armed only with my impeccable knowledge of the subject presented, is it a surprise that it often sounds flat, monotonous and lifeless? Audiences are instinctively riveted to delivery not content. Actions are louder than words. Your body, sense of grounding, breathing, postures, gestures, movement and willingness to belong to yourself are the “languaging” elements that hit an audience first and consistently.
A good speaker, communicator or actor, has to will him- or herself into existence. This is the challenge of the speaker. The realm itself is too open to offer any resistance and therefore, will swallow anything whole that is not being sustained with intention and skill.
All public speaking or presenting is borrowed convention. When a company of actors puts on a show, they do so according to the above-mentioned nature of the stage, or realm. A speaker is very much like an artist in front of a blank canvas. All has to be created and sustained with craft to be valid and visible. It is an accountability, which once met, keeps paying us back.
Being in public is highly visible living, and we are not always prepared for it. Hence, the importance of developing solid skills, and a healthy appetite to be seen and heard. We resist being seen as we prefer being private. Privacy in public is the goal and it can only be attained after careful consideration of the open nature of the realm itself.
So play in the open! The idea here is that we realize that in an open realm, the mere contemplative thought of hiding is ludicrous. It is precisely what we try to hide which now comes to the foreground. So you have two choices: play everything including your mistakes in the open or learn the skills to render the mistakes passive or invisible. I personally like a healthy combination of the two as it makes for a more organic performance.
To render something invisible is having the capacity to focus on something else. We do have the power of focus. It is the free will of the performer. You can’t make an audience like you but you can focus on the elements that will increase the chances: humor, relaxed manner, spacious pauses, strong connection to your content, etc.
Playing in the open is a great deal more effective. Public speaking is not about being perfect! Whatever gaffe we were destined to make, we’ll be making anyway! To quote the great Joseph Campbell, “the perfect human being is uninteresting!” Self-expression is a function of being willing to play in the open.
If you need coaching or know someone who could benefit from honing these skills or if you wish to comment, feel free to contact me on my cell at (818) 486-3395 or go to my contact page by clicking Here!
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