Public Speaking: The Inner Game

I would like you to engage your wildest imagination; your wonderful fantasy mind.

Picture yourself standing tall in front of a group of 10 or 15 individuals in a comfortable room.

You’ve just gotten back from an amazing adventure and these people are here to hear about it and celebrate you for your courage and daring.

You stand there and take a deep slow breath. You are totally relaxed and are settling in to yourself while you patiently allow the words to bubble up on their own.

The room is relaxed and quiet.

Everyone is patiently waiting for you to begin speaking.

You slowly gaze around the room from one person to another until you find someone who feels comfortable for you to connect with.

You take another breath as you connect with that one person and in the next several seconds the words begin to flow on their own.

You begin speaking to that one person as if they are the only one in the room.

You are comfortably relaxed and your words flow easily.

You are sharing your story with that one person and you can feel their rapt attention.

When it feels comfortable, you shift your soft gaze to another person in the room who you feel drawn to connect with and speak with them for 10 or 15 seconds, or more after taking another slow steady breath.

There’s no rush. They are all here to hear your story and they are totally enjoying your every word.

It’s so intimate and relaxed.

When it feels right, you can connect with yet another person as you speak slowly and continue your story.

And you continue in this fashion until you are complete and feel your story has been told. You take another deep, slow breath and thank the audience for listening.

They are all applauding now and are so appreciative that you shared your amazing story or some valuable information with them.

You feel complete and at peace; very happy that you are so graciously received.

Does this sound wonderful?

How much would you enjoy telling your story or sharing some valuable information with a group of people with this much ease and grace?

Well, that is exactly what’s possible once you’ve connected with your inner speaker.

And connecting with your inner speaker is what Speaking Circles ® are all about.

Speaking Circles ® are public speaking support groups that were started by Lee Glickstein to assist participants to overcome their fear of public speaking using his “Transformational Speaking” approach.

You can find Speaking Circles ® in most areas of the country by looking  on the web site http://www.speakingcircles.com

I first heard about Speaking Circles ® after spending some time in Toastmasters, another organization that was created to help people get over the fear of public speaking.

I had attended Toastmasters meetings while I was employed at a financial company in Irvine California and enjoyed the camaraderie of others who were honing their public speaking skills.

I found myself most drawn to a portion of section of the meetings entitled Table Topics where members would volunteer or be volunteered to stand and deliver a two minute speech on a subject that was just given to them.

I really enjoyed the improvisational nature of Table Topics. It was a skill I was happy to develop!

Table Topics grabbed my total attention and I never even prepared a “normal” speech while a member of Toastmasters.

I was “hooked” on Table Topics.

And I was even inspired that this approach could be used to easily help others to get over whatever fear of public speaking that they were convincing themselves that they actually had. Even if they got up and just said “Blah blah blah” for two minutes would be a start.

Creating workshops came to mind and I started thinking about this.

Then, a month or so later, a friend asked me if I had heard about something called Speaking Circles. A few minutes later after an online search , I found one close by in Carlsbad, California. I was living in Orange County at the time.

Shortly after that, I actually moved to Carlsbad as a result of another serendipitous event that happened in my life and found myself at my first Speaking Circle hosted by Denise Marie and attended by two others.

I had read the guidelines that Denise sent me on how to be present with whoever was speaking by employing something called “soft vision” (a soft and relaxed gaze) and refraining from talking during their time to speak. Also to applaud them when they finished in a supportive fashion.

The first exercise we did was to sit across from another student, take several deep breaths and just look at them with a soft and relaxed gaze for several minutes.

Another exercise had us speaking directly to them after we first connected with ourselves and then to them. The words were totally improvisational. Whatever came up for us.

These exercises were more than just ice-breaking exercises. They form the heart of this training.

So, the foundation of Speaking Circles ® is being in the present moment!

Being in the present moment is  a concept that grabbed my interest back in the mid 70’s when I came across a book called Be Here Now by Ram Dass.  The idea to forget the past and drop any expectations about what might or might not happen in the future really hit me deeply and it has become my spiritual path.  This idea was recently popularized by Ekhart Tolle in his book The Power of Now.  Again, a very simple idea that is not easy to achieve.

The art of being in the now moment is foundational to more than a few thought systems such as Buddhism, A Course In Miracles, The Power of Now etc.

After we did these exercises, we were ready to actually get up and speak to the group.

As I recall, it was determined that each of us would do a 1 minute, a 2 minute and a 5 minute talk.

The first thing we are instructed to do once we get up and are standing in front of the group is to take a deep breath and connect with our bodies. This can take one or more breaths. Then, once we feel connected to our body, we can look for one person in the audience to connect with. Once we connect with them, we can wait for words to arise.

It is not required to speak at all if words don’t arise.

I have witnessed several class members get up and not say anything at all during their turn.

We in the audience would follow the speaker with our soft gaze and deep listening. We are asked to be completely present with the speaker. Witnessing the event without commentary.

The facilitator then signals the speaker when they have 30 seconds left so they can wrap up the talk.

The speaker will then signal they are complete and the audience will applaud as the speaker goes back to their seat.

The audience applauds no matter what the speaker does in the talk. Even if the speaker doesn’t say one word or even says “Blah Blah Blah” for the entire time of the talk.

This is done to show support for the speaker and is an integral component of the process. This can offset and heal those times where the speaker may have been laughed at or embarrassed at an earlier time in their life.

I remember the first time I witnessed someone standing at the front of the room and connecting in such a deeply intimate fashion with each member of the audience without even saying a word.

I had never heard such silence from someone who was “speaking” and it had such a deeply profound effect on me.

And I recall the very first time I got up in front of this group and launched into some story from my life in my “normal” way of speaking, having forgotten all the principles of first connecting, then letting the words flow. I had gotten nervous and had reverted to the old way of speaking. I still got my applause as I walked to my seat and remember how I felt like a failure when asked by the facilitator how that experience was for me.

Well, I didn’t do that much better the next time I had the opportunity to “speak” and realized that it takes time to adopt a new habit.

A few more experiences up in front of the audience and I was beginning to feel into the proper attitude of connecting with myself first and then connecting with another before letting the words flow…. if they do.

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