How to connect to yourself so you can connect to your audience

Motivated magazine’s fall issue is on “Exploring the Theme of Fear,” and features an article called “The Two Faces of Public Speaking,” by Saskia Shakin. Shakin is a speaker coach and the author of More Than Words Can Say: The Making of Inspired Speeches.

For her, the two sides of public speaking are fear and art. As a speaker coach, how does she tackle a client’s fear of speaking? She writes, “I don’t. I bypass it. Since fear is an inside job, I distract my clients and help them focus on something else. I can help them find their passion: an aspect of their work or their message that really excites them, something that makes them smile, something that brings light to their eyes.”

She continues, “The art of public speaking is the only antidote to the fear of it. And the ‘art’ comes from connecting first to yourself and only then to your audience.”

Shakin lists five tips to help you create a strong connection with your audience and thereby shake your fears. They are:

1. Public speaking is first a private affair. You must examine what’s in your spirit, your heart, your soul. You must tell a story that reflects this authenticity, this connection to your most private thoughts and feelings.

2. Every speaker has a story. It may be personal, factual or inspiring, Shakin writes. Storytelling makes the speech more fun for the audience and for the speaker. Why? Because a story allows us to “get real.” Facts and figures don’t stick; a story does.

3. Go within, Shakin advises. A speaker with a good story is connected to herself and, therefore, does a much better job of connecting to her audience.

4. Fear repels; joy attracts, writes Shakin. Look for the joy in your message. Look for the joy in your life. For you bring not only your speech to the podium. You bring your life.

5. Know who you are. Speaking is a spiritual journey, Shakin tells us. “Your spiritual knowing will enable you to commit to what you want to say—in public and in private. It will empower you to empower others. And most of all, it will deliver to you the joy of finding your voice and voicing your vision.”

I like the way that Shakin helps us recognize the very authentic and spiritual nature of a great speech. I think it’s the only way to fly.

The trick for the speaker is to remember “we all have stories to tell,” as I titled one of my previous blogs, and they will absolutely speak to the people in the audience.

Speakers and their speechwriters must remember we’re all the same. We all go through life trying to cope, trying to matter, trying to do the right things. The authentic, personal stories you share with an audience are golden.

Be not afraid.

Cynthia Starks is a freelance speechwriter based in Central Indiana.

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