Imagining Naked People Doesn’t Work!
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Finishing Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun left me feeling justified. He decries the old adage of “imagining your audience naked” when speaking or giving a lecture. This advice had been given to me various times before going on stage, the result being, I usually just forgot what I was supposed to be talking about, as I couldn’t get those images to flee my brain!
Berkun’s advice for public speakers revolves around good communication. As leaders, if our ideas don’t settle into others’ minds or if unable to communicate the passions we care about, we are hobbled in our ability to lead effectively. Stories are crucial in public speaking and communication. The difficulties of finding proper stories are worth the effort, if relevance to the audience is addressed.
I discovered this to be true one weekend while in Latin America. I had spoken on a common topic, similar to many other times. I had used many of the “tricks” that Berkun speaks of. I rearranged the chairs to leave a smaller center aisle; I had mingled and found connections in the audience and had included audience participation – but the talk seemed to fall flat. As I was about to conclude, I remembered a short story someone had told me that seemed so true of relationships in Latin America. I shared the story and linked my main point to it in the conclusion. People clapped, smiled and cheered (yes, actually cheered) as the antagonist in the story lost and the underdog came out on top. I had succeeded in touching on a nerve. I had communicated.
I have used that story over and over. The story communicates even when I speak through a translator. I am amazed with each opportunity I have to share it. I believe it’s because of the “tension and release” that Berkun speaks of.
Many other tips are given; arrive early, be enthusiastic, and end early. He also reminds us to “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then, tell them what you told them!” But nothing is better than a good story. By the way, did you hear about the three men who walked into a bar….?