Deceptive Public Speakers

By: Clive Simpkins

Deceptive Public Speakers and presenters - or just the blindleading the blind?

A disappointing deception is being perpetrated in the so-calledpublic speaking and presenting arena. For years it's been a (nowfading, thank God) 'norm' for companies to have a 'motivational'speaker at annual marketing, sales and other conferences. Beinga veteran public speaker and founding member of the NationalSpeakers' Association of SA (NSASA), I need to declare aninterest. The purpose of this article is to 1) Alert relevantparties to the 'canned' nature of what they may be getting fortheir speaker money and 2) Hopefully save some young wanna-bespeakers from going down a highly inappropriate and 'ersatz'road.

My opinion of the role of an authentic public speaker is thatone takes a brief to get enough information to really understandthe audience and the intended outcome of the assignment orconference. You then custom-craft something or 'tweak' anexisting suitable presentation for the event and then deliverthat material in an engaging, and hopefully also 'professionallyentertaining' way.

What triggered this article can only be described as a Damasceneexperience. Biblical-proportion scales fell from my eyes when Irealised that the majority of the self-proclaimed 'top' speakersaround the world have moved out of public speaking into publicparroting and parody. And some South African speakers are now atrisk of falling into the same trap. It's the equivalent if youwill of Madonna, Josh Groban or Placido Domingo lip-synching.Why the analogy? Well, because it appears that many of thesespeakers learn 'off-pat' every single word of what they say onstage. Worse, they rehearse, memorise and do the same with everyvocal inflection, movement and gesture - including the'spontaneously' arched eyebrow and the pregnant but utterlycontrived pause.

I studied speech and drama under the eagle eye of theredoubtable Rita Maas-Phillips in Cape Town. We traineethespians became very familiar with the genius of ConstantinStanislavsky. He was the renowned director of the Moscow ArtsTheatre and the father of 'method' acting which was subsequentlyadopted - to singular effect - by discerning movie actors.Seasoned live theatre actors had long benefitted. In methodacting, you 'become' the character. So when Daniel Day-Lewisplayed the lead role in 'My Left Foot', he would sustain hison-camera character even off-set. If you were to play Quasimodo,you would continue to walk, eat, speak and interact as youbelieve the legendary hunchback of Notre Dame might have. Whatthe audience got was as we say in South Africa, 'die ware Jakob'the real thing, the 'Makoya!'

It seems that inappropriate competitiveness and a desperate needfor acclaim by peers and public has shifted public speaking atthe top end of the (former) 'art', into an exercise in mimicry.Parrot-fashion learning and highly manipulative NLP-driven stagemovements hold sway. I cottoned on to this when I saw one ofthese characters demonstrating so-called 'stagecraft' to somefledgling speakers. Each time, he replicated the same few lines,inflections and movements with terrifying and mathematicalprecision. It was like watching a rewind and slo-mo replay of asequence on TV. He proudly proclaimed that this was how hemanaged 'to get a predictable and consistent result from anaudience, time after time.'

This is regretfully, high-school speaking competition orEisteddfod-type 'memorization'. At its worst, neurolinguisticmanipulation. It's not even decent amateur acting. Becausealthough an actor will commit to heart, her or his lines, thenuances and variations in each performance will give itmemorable impact and make it art. But the parrots of thespeaking circuit don't allow themselves even that leeway. Theyproduce a clone of their performance at function after functionand at venue after venue.

All good communicating on a topic will always of course have toincorporate the 'skeleton' on certain aspects. So yes, there mayoften be a degree of repetition. But it will be differentlyphrased and delivered each and every time because of the uniqueaudience energy, dynamic and interaction - or, lack of it!

So why am I so disturbed by this galloping trend in the publicspeaking arena? Simply because it's an absolute waste and abuseof what can, with the right mindset and understanding, be aspeaking gift. When you have a good sense of the issues you'dlike to explore in a presentation, you've got a sequence or lineof thought and you've got your support material (if required)together, then comes the time for the real art.

The first, more commercial approach will be to source, structurethe material, have a very clear sense of where you're going andknow how long the presentation or talk will take. But youintentionally keep 'open' your receptivity to subtle audienceinteraction (not necessarily spoken, but a 'vibe') and feedbackin the form of engagement, response and so on, driving anelement of your presentation. This can happen even with atypical non-interactive 'keynote' address.

The second - and highest form of communicating - is doing allthe required prep but then trusting to the universe, God, yourhigher consciousness, intuition, the Ancestors, your Muse orwhatever you wish to call it, to use you as an instrument tobring something special and of value to your listeners. Yes,even though it may be a business presentation, it can have an'edge' that is unique and different.

When you're appropriately ego-free and understand that you'reonly ever the instrument or co-player through which such amessage will be delivered - but never the sole author - thenamazing, sustainable transformation can and does take place.People are affected and infected by the integrity and congruenceof your message. You'll potentially have lower demand appeal,because the undiscerning masses are mainly looking for a quickfix. And there are innumerable frauds out there just waiting toserve up their version of a 'just add water and stir' formula.Don't listen to cynics who say that such integrity-basedspeaking, presenting or communicating isn't possible or evendesirable. Rather, talk with people for whom it is a norm ratherthan the exception - and explore your real speaking andpresenting potential.

The role of intuition shouldn't be underestimated. For those whorespect the gift, there will be the sub-conscious 'reading' ofenergies and needs emanating from an individual or the audience.You may recall afterwards, that you used examples or analogiesthat you hadn't for years. Or that you went very high disclosureon personal-experience based and therefore 'healing' information- because you were functioning authentically. You had prepared,you might well have rehearsed to ensure you honour the precisetime allocated. But you spoke from the core of your being,knowing that it was not you alone speaking, but you in synch andtandem with the 'Wise Ones.' There's nothing 'mystical' aboutthis. It's about choosing to operate at another and much morepowerful level. You'll know and feel the difference and so willdiscerning audiences.

By Clive Simpkins June 2005 clive@imbizo.com

May be used freely with appropriate attribution Also publishedin tomorrowtoday.biz newsletter www.marketingweb.co.zawww.imbizo.com

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