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Speaking under the New Moon: Communication rituals of release and promise

Do you believe that the Moon influences you on some level – emotionally, physically or spiritually? Well, if the Moon affects ocean tides, why not us? After all, we are made up mostly of water. Many poets and writers chose the Moon as their muse. Whether you pay attention to the phases of the Moon or not, it may be useful to imagine that your words are like those ocean tides, rising and falling, gaining power and focus with the rhythms of the Moon. As I am writing this post, the Moon is about 3 days old, it’s a 10.5% waxing crescent, growing its thin thread of light. What inspiration can it bring to our communication, whether it is public speaking, presenting, self-talk or journaling?
The New Moon is about planting the seeds for things to come and releasing everything that is in the way of the new energy. Here are a few metaphors and word rituals you can adapt to celebrate the new beginnings.

Journaling is a great practice to gather your thoughts and process your feelings. The New Moon invites you to look inward for answers. The answers are closer than you think. The following question prompts can help you harness the energy of transformation.

  • What come up for you as topics to focus on or expand in your personal growth, family, relationships, career, well-being at this time?
  • How do you want to feel in those areas of your life? What words best describe your feelings?
  • What new routines and habits would support the themes you identified?
  • What stands in the way of transformation?
  • What do you need to know to make the desired changes happen?
  • What do you need to let go of to make things happen?
  • Who will support you on your journey?
  • What excites you about this transformation?

Now, it’s time to weave the Moon thread. Here’s what it may look like, for example, if you chose “boundaries” as a topic for the area of relationships.

I want to be better at setting boundaries with people. I want to feel empowered and in control of my social life. I need to learn how to say “No” more often when invitations or projects don’t feel right. I worry that my refusals would upset people. I am a people-pleaser. I need to know that my relationships will be OK and even better when I learn to focus on things that matter, and that people can handle their own feelings, whether they are upset with me or now, and I can handle mine. I need to let go of my fears and insecurities. I need to love myself more. My family and my true friends will understand me and will be there for me. I am excited at the possibility of people respecting my time and my commitments. I am excited to have more time to do the things I love.

In your personal communication, you may feel the need to release something that has not been said or set forth the ideas that have been hiding in the background. Voice what’s there, waiting to be set free. Your best words will come from the mindful, sincere and honest place. The masks are off. Be prepared to be vulnerable. This is how your new relationships will sprout under the tender light of the New Moon.

In public speaking, the New Moon calls for an enticing opening – a story or an anecdote to capture the audience’s attention from the start and transport them into the new reality you are about to present to them. A powerful open-ended question can work as your “Big Bang” opening too, and so can unexpected statements or quotations. Giving a solid roadmap will ensure that your audience is ready for the journey and won’t get lost in the swirl of ideas. The New Moon also offers the Big Promise. What will your audience be able to do as a result of your speech? What do you promise your audience will get? How can you help the audience members release their pain? A good framework to tease your audience to a point that they are eager to hear your message is to say something like, “By the time you leave here today, you will be able to…” What will they be able to do as a result of your speech that they don’t do right now?

Finally, don’t forget to allow the moments of introspection in your speech. The Moon invites us to reflect on our experiences and feelings. People remember better things that are relevant to their lives. Reflection questions challenge the audience to think about how your main points relate to their lives and personal experiences. What can you ask your audience to make them think about their own situation as it relates to your message? In which context are they most likely to apply your message?

Whatever your communicative challenge is today, the New Moon invites you to focus on the energy that needs to be released before new opportunities can show up and unleash their transformative potential.

By | 2017-08-08T19:18:31+00:00 June 27th, 2017|Communication, Creativity, Perception, Public Speaking|0 Comments

Your lizard brain on vacation: How environment builds the brain

Have you noticed how certain habits and routines change when you change your surroundings, for example, when you go on vacation? Your environment constantly shapes your brain and your habits whether you are aware of it or not.

In his book “Situations Matter,” Sam Sommers argues that by understanding the powerful influence that context has in our lives and using this knowledge to rethink how we see the world, we can be more effective at work, at home, and in daily interactions with others.

Today, I bring you my observations about the power of environment to change our habits from the beautiful island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, where my daughter and I have recently spent a blissful week of vacation.

By | 2017-05-05T15:00:44+00:00 May 5th, 2017|Brain, Peak Performance, Perception|0 Comments

Good vibes only: 3 steps to build your speaking energy

“If your presence doesn’t work, neither will your word.”
~ Gabrielle Bernstein quoting Yogi Bhajan in her book “The Universe Has Your Back”

When we speak, it is not just our words that carry the message forward, it is also our energy, vibes and the state of mind. As speakers who want to create greater impact, we need to align the message with our own presence, as well as the energy of the audience. Craig Valentine, a World Champion of Public Speaking and my mentor, emphasizes that importance of meeting our audience members where they are energetically and then moving them to where we want them to be. This applies to all important conversations, not just public speaking. Even in self-talk, what we say may contradict to how we feel – you can be your own audience. Here is how you can connect with your audience members and influence them on the energetic and emotional level:

Find the calm in the eye of the speaking storm. You may feel nervous and jittery before your presentation. You may find it hard to control the stream of thoughts coming through your mind. You may feel swept away by the whirlpool of events that are happening around you. It is important to find your center – your core. Find a quiet place where you can have a few minutes to yourself and do the following exercise that we often do in our yoga classes. Stand tall, take a deep breath and constrict every muscle in your body. Tighten your stomach, clench your feasts, squeeze everything inward and, as my yoga teacher likes to say, “Make a prune face.” Hold it for a few seconds then release as you exhale. Repeat a few times. I find this exercise helps me release stress and recharge.

Feel your audience’s vibes. Observe your audience, if possible, before your presentation. Are they energetic or low-key? Are they tired? Have they just come back from lunch? Do they appear formal or informal? Imagine yourself somewhere on the beach. You are about to enter the ocean. What does the ocean look like? Do you see calm, turquoise-blue waters? Do you feel the breeze chasing the waves to the shore? Do the waves look fun and playful or big and threatening? The ocean that you are about to enter represents the energy of your audience. You need to adjust your behavior accordingly, whether it is swaying back and forth on gentle waves, diving in, swimming along or staying close to the shore. Let your audience’s presence guide you when you begin so you can match their energetic level and build rapport. If your audience members feel tired and bored, jumping up and down on the stage will only annoy them. Transport them into a story instead, gradually capture their imagination and take it further.

You are the captain of the ship, and your audience are the passengers, so make it a memorable journey. Raise those sails and be ready to cruise along. Once you have connected with your audience and got their attention, make sure you have a toolbox of strategies to bring your audience where it needs to be, no matter if the waters are calm or rough. Compelling stories, reflective questions, clear points and take-aways, memory anchors, statements of benefits, and effective delivery techniques can all help you take your audience on a most amazing journey, both mentally and energetically, so they would want to sail with you again and again.

By | 2017-02-01T13:24:18+00:00 February 1st, 2017|Communication, Perception, Public Speaking, Yoga|0 Comments

Your fear of pubic speaking may be influenced by who you choose to look at when you speak

Our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative clues and threats in the emotions-caricaturesenvironment. This is also true in the context of public speaking, especially for speakers who may experience social anxiety.

In a recent study, participants – some low in social anxiety, some high – were asked to give a three-minute impromptu speech over Skype to an audience shown onscreen. What the participants didn’t know is that the audience was made up of actors who produced facial expressions and body movements on purpose.  In fact, their positive (smiles and nods), negative (frowns and yawns) or neutral expressions had been recorded earlier and  were shown to the participants as they spoke. The researchers tracked the participants’ eye movements as they gave their speeches, recorded their physical anxiety via sweating and heart rate, and asked them to rate how anxious they felt.

It turned out that speakers with higher social anxiety showed a preference for looking at negative audience members, which fueled their anxiety even more.  In contrast, people with low social anxiety chose to look at positive, engaged audience members.

To calm your nerves, it may be worthwhile to pick out some friendly faces in the audience and deliberately pause there longer as your eyes scan the room.

Better yet, meet some of your audience members in advance of your speech, perhaps, by greeting them as they enter the room.  You will feel more support from the audience that way.

Virtual platforms and networks offer another way to get to know your audience prior to your presentation.

By | 2016-06-21T16:42:42+00:00 June 21st, 2016|Brain, Communication, Perception, Public Speaking|0 Comments

How to find the right public speaking venue to magnify your message

venueLast week, I went to see a play at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City.  “The Past is Still Ahead” by Sophia Romma is about Russia’s famous poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who “revisits the tumultuously tragic and sexy events of her life – just before succumbing to ‘suicide’ at the hands of the Soviet Secret Police in 1941 while exiled in Siberia.” It was a dynamic performance that captured the creative power, vivacity and emotional turmoil of the poet as she recalled her visions of life, people, romance with some of the most prominent poets of her time, as well as the social and political devastation of Russia after the revolution.

As I was reflecting on the play, I couldn’t help but notice the influence of the space in which the play was performed.  It was a small theater with just four raised rows of seats with about forty seats in total. The stage was on the same level as the floor and the first row. The walls, the ceiling and the floors were black. The decorations were set to be the house of Marina Tsvetaeva in Elabuga. A large desk where she spent much time writing occupied a prominent spot. The intimate nature of the space with its stark features drew in the audience as if they were in that house too, magnifying the impact of the words and acting.

It made me think about the effect of public speaking venues on the message. Speakers and trainers may not always have a choice since organizers often choose the venue for them. Many events take place in large auditoriums, conference rooms, or seminar rooms of hotels. However, when you create your own event, it may be useful to approach the question of space more carefully and creatively. If you plan an upcoming seminar or workshop and wonder where you should have it, here are some possible criteria to use when choosing a public speaking venue:

  • Size
  • Location
  • Cost
  • Accessibility
  • Proximity to public transportation
  • Acoustics
  • The level of noise outside
  • Internet and wiring for the AV equipment you may need
  • Seating arrangements
  • Possibility of catering and serving food and drinks
  • Temperature control
  • Lighting
  • Overall ambiance and comfort (colors, textures, smells, etc.)
  • Logistics and support.

I have been hosting a book club meetup in a local Barnes & Noble for almost four years now.  While it may not be an ideal spot because it is open and can get noisy, it is also centrally located in a large mall with ample parking space. Because we are visible to other shoppers, people have stopped by to learn more about the club and some of them joined us. Newcomers find the formality of the space welcoming since we don’t look like a closed group. We have a circular arrangement of chairs that promotes good interactions. People don’t feel obligated to buy coffee or food, but they can if they want to because we are right next to a café. It doesn’t cost me anything to host the book club there, and the book store puts us on their printed and online calendar of events.  In addition, we all love books, so it seems a natural place to visit.

The right public speaking venue is likely to be a product of careful research and beneficial collaboration, and it can make it easier for you to market to and attract your ideal audience. Here are some questions to consider when selecting a proper venue:

  • What atmosphere do you want to create for your audience?
  • What type of space is best aligned with your brand and your message?
  • How do you want your audience to feel before, during and after your presentation?
  • How do you want to feel in the space?
  • What can you bring to the venue to make it “your own”?
  • What will your audience members see, touch, and hear when they come in?
  • What will they be doing during your presentation, besides listening: working in groups, writing notes, drawing, watching a video, etc.?
  • What seating arrangement will support your objectives and your audience’s needs best?
  • How do you want your audience to move in the room from the time they arrive till the end when they may want to talk to you or among themselves or place an order?

Keeping your criteria and your needs in mind, here are some venue options to consider:

  • Hotels (conference rooms, seminar rooms, ballrooms, etc.)
  • Libraries
  • Churches
  • Government buildings that may have space available for public use
  • Coworking spaces
  • Restaurants or coffee shops that may have private rooms for meetings
  • Gyms
  • Yoga studios (may be a perfect spot for health & wellness workshops)
  • Stores with a theme that supports your topic (for example, book signing/reading in a book store or a wellness workshop in a health store)
  • Wellness centers
  • Dance studios
  • Art galleries and art studios
  • Theaters

What kind of venue would magnify your message? What are your favorite off-the-beaten-path spaces?

By | 2013-08-02T15:21:15+00:00 August 1st, 2013|Communication, Perception, Public Speaking|0 Comments