I recently saw “A Star Is Born” with my wife on a rare night out (we have two young children). It was a fantastic movie and a must-see for anyone who loves performing and presenting.
The film is about a washed-up rocker (Jackson) who falls for a young, poor, talented singer (Ally), and gives her the courage to find her voice, I think the film offers a lot of wisdom in regard to speaking in public. Ally is searching for stardom but doesn’t truly find it until she follows Jackson’s advice, and sings from the deepest parts of her soul. Only when she makes her singing deeply personal does she truly “have something to say” (in Jackson’s parlance).
Do you personalize your speeches? Do you plum the depths to find material that is secret, provocative, honest? Do you tell stories? Do you work to relate to your audience, to share your humanity, with all of its messiness? Or do you neaten things up to make yourself look “good”?
Brave public speaking, like brave singing, happens rarely. But when it does, it unites, it inspires, it transforms. Think today about your speeches, and ask yourself “Am I being brave?”.
I think John Mulaney is one of the best comedians around these days. What can we learn from him from a public speaking perspective? Here are three things I think we can take away:
- His pacing is very deliberate – Notice the tempo at which Mr. Mulaney speaks. It’s very measured, but it never feels belabored. That’s because he is using his tempo to create vocal variety, emphasizing certain words with volume and pitch.
- He makes eye contact with his audience – Pretty straightforward, right? If you want to create a relationship with the audience, you need to look at them.
- He has clearly rehearsed – It’s never a good idea to wing a presentation, but we don’t want to sound too canned either. It’s often best to rehearse from a set of simple bullet points and allow yourself to improvise within that structure. Mr. Mullaney clearly has a few “bits” he is working with, but he doesn’t sound like he has thought out each word he is going to say. He stays loose with his execution.
Do you have a talented employee with poor English skills? Do you wish you could help him or her but are afraid of coming across as insensitive or discouraging? Here are five tips for helping your employee get the help they need:
- Begin by emphasizing the employee’s value to the company. If your employee feels that they are valued, they are more likely to embrace constructive feedback.
- Ask the employee how they feel about their English skills. Often, people with poor speech know they need to get better. If your employee is capable of accurately assessing his or her deficiencies it will be easier for you to get their buy-in for training.
- Avoid using the phrase “accent reduction” – the term tends to put people off. Begin by suggesting “articulation courses” or “speech enhancement”.
- Make the lessons voluntary. It’s never a good idea to force training on an employee who doesn’t want it. Your employee will become bitter, and the training will not go well.
- Offer to compensate your employee for lessons. Think about the added value your company will have when your top talent can truly express themselves in important meetings!