I train speakers. And I love doing it.
But last week I wondered if I should resign.
Why? Because although I’ve studied the craft and have worked hard to improve, I can still name dozens of communicators who do it far better than me.
Whether writing or speaking, being a professional communicator is hard work. It requires hours of preparation, research, and practice, followed by 45 sweaty minutes of standing in the spotlight. A room full of strangers sit ready to be wowed, and each will likely decide whether you’re “good” or “bad” long before you ever reach the conclusion.
Communicating is a vulnerable profession, one with no guarantees. One night you’ll nail it. The next you’ll bomb. Some speakers love the thrill of it, being up front, wooing the crowd, feeling the risk of it going one way or the other. It’s true when I’m speaking, I feel alive, connected with my God-given purpose. But within an hour of my wrap up, doubt swoops in and suffocates my confidence: Am I good enough to be doing this?
When students come to Dynamic Communicators Workshop, they ask us to make them better. They want help with eye contact, feedback on their vocal quality, tools to craft stories, ideas for creative illustrations. They want us to help them create a better package, a polished presentation. It’s not a bad thing. These skills can, in fact, make them better.
But polish doesn’t make a communicator shine. Heart does.
Heart is the key for communication that changes the world. Without it, you’re just another talking head, delivering words, ideas, perspectives, but without any thought for the message or the audience who needs to hear it. Want to find your shine? Start by making these commitments:
- Be YOU. I know you’ve watched all those Bible study videos. I know you sat in the stadium and listened to that guy nail it to the applause of an adoring crowd. But as good as he or she may be, don’t try to be them. Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but it’s the worst form of communication. You don’t shine by stealing someone else’s light. You shine from the inside out.
- See individuals. For years, nerves took center stage every time I walked up on one. Speaking in front of audiences terrified me, and I lost plenty of dinners beforehand to prove it. But a couple years ago something changed. I started to see my audience. Each face told a story, and their story started to matter more to me than my fear.
- Believe your message. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. It doesn’t matter how polished you are, how skilled you are at crafting a story. If your message hasn’t wrecked you, then it will never shine through you. Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.” His words stand just as true for speaking.
I’m not the best speaker, not always the most polished and perfected. But I’ve found the source of my shine. I didn’t find it in my research, or uncover it in a cool illustration. I didn’t discover it in the way I use the stage, or my knack for killer eye contact.
My shine comes when the stage is the last thing on my mind. It radiates in the quiet simplicity of being myself with God. It increases in brilliance when I see a world far larger than myself. And it shows itself brightest when I know what I believe with every fiber of my being. That’s when I end up less a carbon-copy of some other great speaker and the more of a reflection of the One who called me to speak in the first place.
The stage is a dangerous place to be. The light of attention can eclipse the possibilities in no time. Don’t let your shine get lost in the spotlight. Perfect presentations don’t change the world. Light in the darkness does.
That’s the kind of communication that changes the world.
This blog post is part of an intentional conversation about “Communication That Changes the World.” Want to join the fun? Write a post, tweet it using hashtag #SpeakForAChange, and then come back here to give us the deets. Looking forward to reading your post!