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Practice, spontaneity, and happenstance

Speaking Leave a comment

Writing the past few weeks about Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill caused me to think of something one of my first sports coaches at summer camp used to say: “Good things happen to those who prepare.”  In particular, I was reflecting on these two true masters of rhetoric and how diligently they practiced their craft. In addition, I thought deeply about the role of practice, happenstance, learning to be spontaneous, and how each of these diverse elements can contribute to a speaker’s development. Indeed, great speakers such as Sir Winston and Dr King were able to use reactions from their audiences—and at times even happenstance—so well because they had practiced the art … Continue reading

The making of a speaker

Speaking Leave a comment

In the last post, I wrote that true masters of rhetoric and public speaking—every one that I have either observed or researched—hone their craft through many hours of mindful practice. It is this mastery of their craft that allows them to deviate from their prepared remarks, in ways that may appear natural and spontaneous when they address an audience. First and foremost, we should realize that the people who become great communicators have worked at it, and indeed worked at it with resolve. One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon is Winston Churchill, who is widely considered to be one the greatest speakers of modern times, and also someone who often … Continue reading

Spontaneity in public speaking

leadership, Speaking Leave a comment

Last time, I closed the post with an appeal for more unscripted speeches, and for increased spontaneity in public discourse.  In reaction to this call for spontaneity, several readers wrote in, wondering about how one can “learn to improvise”. If speaking “off the cuff” makes us sound honest and authentic, does that mean we should not prepare quite so much, and instead work on being more spontaneous? Such questions led me back to this issue, though I had planned to write about something completely different this week. So, in this post, and perhaps the next one as well, I will try to shed some light on the relationship between preparation and the … Continue reading

The power of interaction among story, teller and listeners – part 2

leadership, Speaking 1 Comment

In our example from last time, we discussed how Martin Luther King was growing into new stories of identity, framed by the narrative he began telling at the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. As the boycott unfolded and he spoke in a variety of formal and informal venues, Dr King’s own life story was increasingly becoming a tale of inclusion and nonviolence.   This is yet another case in point that demonstrates how stories of identity can shape an individual, as much as the individual shapes the stories. It is something I have seen over and over in my consulting work: As we create our stories, our stories are simultaneously … Continue reading

The power of interaction among story, teller and listeners – part 1

leadership, Speaking, Storytelling Leave a comment

In the next two posts, my plan is to highlight several concepts from recent entries, and review them through the lens of a single example. In particular, there are three points I would like to emphasize: 1. how the act of story telling helps the teller evolve, both as a speaker and as a leader  2. the valuable benefits of audience interaction  3. the role that happenstance can play in an orator’s development For today, I will address the first of these questions, how the simple act of telling can help the teller evolve. Next time, we will take a look at the other two. One of the most fascinating things … Continue reading

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