Front-loading

Tree Metaphor

Growth is a fascinating thing. Take a tree, for instance. The seed falls into the ground and its current form dies to what it is. Over the course of many days, little germinations sprout from it, digging down into the earth and forming roots. Slowly but surely, a shoot turns upward and pushes through the dirt. To an observer, what was a seemingly empty and inactive patch of land on Monday becomes the home of a fresh new bud on Tuesday. Then up and up and up that bud grows in a very short time indeed. Eventually, this growth spurt slows as the little tree sapling establishes itself in the dirt and its roots dig ever deeper. However, this process continues to repeat—the roots dig deeper, the trunk gets thicker. The roots dig deeper, the branches grow outward. The roots dig deeper, the tree climbs higher, and on and on and on it goes until you have yourself a mighty tree.

Personal Growth

And so is the nature of personal growth. We root into the dark places, we shoot upward. We root deeper, we grow ever taller. It’s an exquisite pattern of underground development that, if we choose and welcome it, rewards us with new heights, more solid depth, and stronger branches that help us live richer, fuller, more satisfying lives.

Now you might think that viewing personal growth through this kind of a poetic lens might make it seem more romantic than it feels. But, herein lies the crux; growing can be, and often is, painful—or at least, if we’re honest, uncomfortable.

Complacency vs. Daring Greatly

New growth is especially daunting when it feels like unchartered territory. It’s also challenging to even begin a new exploration if we’re complacent in our familiar patterns and routines—especially the ones we think have served us but, again, if we’re honest, certainly don’t propel us into greatness and have us enjoying the ride.

Daring to take risks and diving headlong into the ‘dirt’, as a little seed, dying to the existence we have always known and sprouting in the dark may seem a formidable prospect, especially when ’emergence’ feels like it might be far off into the future. But it really doesn’t have to be difficult and arduous. What if instead of seeing the journey as a long, lonely, dark one, you create the opportunity to dig down with others and share the experience? What if you can choose to find joy in the vulnerability, and instead of seeing it as something to be avoided or something to continue to procrastinate about, you call it—front-loading?

Getting Strategic about Your Own Growth

Front-loading is the strategically smart act of intentionally investing time, effort, and resources into the beginning of an endeavour and watching the fruit of your labours flourish. Investing time, energy, and resources into your personal and professional growth NOW will see you reaping rewards for your efforts in weeks, months, and years to come!

What’s preventing you from challenging your own status quo and looking at your own ‘gaps’—especially in how you communicate? What’s stopping you from taking action now to up your game? Do you really want to remain ‘good enough’ or do you want to be GREAT.

BE INTENTIONAL

What does Being Intentional mean? 
The Encarta Dictionary defines intention as “something that you plan to do or the state of having a purpose in mind”. When you actually take the time to set an intention of how you are going to “be” when you’re making a presentation, your probability of achieving that goes up exponentially. You might already be a good speaker. Or maybe you’re just starting out. In either case, we know there are aspects of your speaking that you want to have more fun with or develop or expand. Everyone has places to grow and when you have a specific purpose in mind, you’re much more likely to get there.  

Image Source: www.collective-evolution.com

Image Source: www.collective-evolution.com

Your content
An initial part of your intention might be to get really solid in your material so you know it backward and forward. That’s great. We highly recommend that you know your stuff—and that you have “good stuff to know”. That’s when you can be free to improvise in the present moment and make the most of it. So definitely include the clear flow of great content in your intention.
 
Other facets of your presentation
However, there are other very significant factors to include in your intentions. The actual content of your presentation has statistically far less impact than how you deliver it. You may have seen these numbers before: 55%, 38%, and 7%. For decades people in the speaking industry have referred to these percentages as body language, tone of voice, and words, respectively, in relation to the impact each part has in your overall presentation. While this is an over-simplification, the powerful combination of your body and voice cannot be denied (even if the 93% in these numbers above is exaggerated).
 
Much of the time we humans 'wing it'. When we have to speak we may do a bit or a lot of preparation (depending on our predisposition for such things), and most of us, a LOT of thinking about it. But, we usually focus the bulk of this preparation on the content part of what we’re presenting; not how we’re going to be as we’re presenting.
We believe that setting intentions about how you show up is absolutely critical to your ability to be a magnificent speaker. If the majority of the impact of your presentation is profoundly affected by your movement, your energy, your presence, your attitude, and your vocal dynamics but you’ve spent most of your time (if not all your time) just on content, can you see the flaw and limitation here? So, setting an intention of how you will be can change everything.
 
Henry Haslett’s quote, “He who has the greatest intention ‘wins’,” is a key part of this discussion. We’re not suggesting that you try to ‘win’ in the competitive sense of trumping or beating someone else. Rather, we’re saying that by establishing your intention you can purposefully set yourself up to be powerfully successful in whatever you’re doing and how you’re doing it. When you clearly articulate what you intend to do and how you intend to bemagic happens.
 
What can you control with your intentions?
We feel strongly that this concept of intention impacts every facet of your life from decision-making to conflict resolution to mediation to time management perspectives; and, of course, speaking and presenting. Since the principle of intention is to absolutely influence and control that which we have influence and control of, it is in your best interest to figure out what it is you actually do have influence and control over in your life. We believe that the only thing you actually have control over (and we use the word control loosely and gently here) is yourself.
 
How do you do that?
The best way we’ve discovered to master that principle is through a written intention. Feel free to contact us if you want to receive an electronic copy of our “Personal Intention Sheet”. This is one of the most powerful concrete tools available to you as a presenter. To set yourself up for delivering your presentation, speech, discussion, dialogue, sales pitch, invitation, marketing pieces, story-telling, talk with your child, etc. the one over-arching factor that will make all of those shine is having a clearly articulated written intention.
 
The instructions on this sheet are pretty clear. State what result you specifically desireabout yourself, things that you have “control” overVisualize yourself being exactly how you want to be as you achieve that result. Spend a few minutes really feeling it and experiencing it as if it is already a reality.  Acknowledge who will be touched/affected by this intention and how this intention you’re writing and steeping in will affect/integrate/benefit/fit with what they want. Then imagine you’ve finished your presentation. What are your next steps? What do you want to do? How do you want to be?
 
The key
So here’s the key. Everything is stated in the present, from a positive perspective, and for the greatest good. Remember it’s how you want to be (not what you don’t want). And it’s stated as if it’s already a reality. Starting with “I am…” is a really powerful way into intentions.

Play with this tool. Experiment. Try things on for size. Write your intention sheet the night before your presentation. Then all your 80-100 trillion cells have a chance to align themselves with the possibilities you’re creating. Read your intention over more than once. Read it again when you’re finished your presentation. See what works for you and brings the best results. Keep in mind that you can ONLY write intentions about yourself (not about what the audience or any other person with think, feel, or do).

Support for writing out your intentions 
And yes, we recommend that you actually do the old-fashioned thing and write out your intentions. Norman Doidge, Daniel Pink, and Bruce Lipton all talk about how our brains are wired and our connection to the physical act of writing—and how important it is. Add to that science, the clear distinction of an intention that serves your greatest good and you’ve got one of the most elegant, simple, and powerful solutions for unbridled success.
 
In The Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce Lipton, former medical school professor and research scientist, says, “The moment you change your perception is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.” Since all your 80-100 trillion cells are programmed for homeostasis, balance, and congruence, can you imagine the impact on every cell in your body when, through the lens of “for your greatest good” you write how you will be in any given moment, in any given meeting, in any given objective, in any given goal, in any given outcome? In essence, by writing intentions you are writing your blueprint for success as a speaker.
 
In using the Personal Intention Sheet to prepare for your next talk or conversation just grab the sheet and fill it out. Focus on yourself (no one else). You and your thoughts and your behaviours and your attitude.  

Examples for inspiration
Here are just a few examples of phrases that we have used:

  • I am clear, present, powerful
  • I am fully myself and I enjoy giving this presentation
  • I am an invitation to greatness
  • I am my most magnificent self at the front of the room and I present with ease
  • I rock this presentation and stay fully present in each moment
  • I see myself having fun at the front of the room and engaging brilliantly with the audience
  • I knock this speech out of the park and say everything I need to say within the time limit
  • I am authentically me and enjoy every moment of this opportunity that I get to share myself with this group/person
  • I see myself being in complete flow with my content and delivering it with my whole being
  • I hear myself having just the right words at the right time
  • I feel alive, exhilarated, and confident
  • As I allow myself to be more fully authentic and speak with confident, open-hearted clarity, my boss and colleagues (you can name them here) are invited deeper into their own authenticity and clarity
  • Now that I’ve accomplished this, I relax and enjoy my evening

Wrapping up 
Write your intentions positively and purposefully. Write in the present tense and only write about what you will do. Avoid trying to control others’ behaviour—you can’t anyway! Your purpose is to take charge of your life and create responses rather than reactions.
 
So start writing intentions. We leave you with a Goethe piece to inspire you:

BEGIN IT...NOW
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:
that moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed would come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do...begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
BEGIN IT...NOW.

Why all the fuss about being Present?

In public speaking, being present is vitally important to creating a connection with your audience. When you’re paying attention to what's happening in you and around you, this connection (and what you’re saying) resonates with much greater depth.  

Your body is a brilliant indicator of what’s really going on inside you; it is so much more than a mere receptacle that houses your brain. Yes, it requires oxygen, water, food, hygienic attention, exercise/movement, clothing, etc.; but it gives you so much in return for this care. Your body is constantly offering you signals about what’s happening in you and around you—and in ways that go far deeper than just your conscious thoughts. Signals about what you’re really feeling. Where that feeling resides in your body. The quality of that feeling. Whether it’s fleeting or something that’s been lingering for awhile that you need to address. Your sympathetic (unconscious) and parasympathetic (conscious) systems will operate in beautiful symmetry—if you let them.

                                                                                                                         photo credit: jcipenticton.com

                                                                                                                         photo credit: jcipenticton.com

So how do you get present?
The key is to tune into what your body is saying to you. You may have thought of sweaty palms and armpits, wobbly knees, and an accelerated heart-rate as signs of fear. But what if these signals are really just a powerful indication that you’re alive? There are lots of situations in life where we experience sweaty palms, weak knees, and increased heart-rate…and many of them have nothing to do with fear. Consider falling in love and what that feels like! It’s all about how you’ve interpreted those signals in the past and how you want to interpret those same signals now.

What happens when you don’t pay attention to your body’s signals?
It is said that everything that happens to us is stored inside us. I believe this is true. And, all this data (whether your mind has acknowledged it or not) is in there, stored at the cellular level. It is also said that we only use about 10% (or less) of our brain’s capacity to process. That means the other 90% must be available to you somehow, but just not in the conventional ways your conscious mind is used to accessing data. When you don’t listen to what your body is telling you, you miss out on some of that 90%. Ignoring messages from your body is a recipe for sickness, depression, lower energy, and unresourcefulness. As a speaker, when you are not listening to your body, you are far less present and available for connection to your audience.

When you actually start listening to the messages your cells are shouting at you…and trusting that there’s always truth there, in some form or another…you’ll definitely be more present. You’ll likely be healthier, happier, clearer on your boundaries, and have more energy too—but that’s a whole other conversation.

Reframe physical signals into positive energy
Before you next get up in front of a group of people, if you notice that you have sweaty palms, your heart is pounding, and your breath is a bit accelerated, know that you have a choice. Instead of interpreting those sensations as indicators of fear, you can choose to see them as excitement, vitality, exhilaration, and energy—all available for you to access and draw on as you speak. Remember, physical sensations might look EXACTLY the same in different situations. It’s the story we make up about what those signals mean that changes everything. In each moment you have an opportunity to HARNESS and ACCESS that beautiful energy and let it HELP you as you talk.

What a difference it makes when you reinterpret and reframe those signals as positive and powerful energy that is available to you. Energy that is spurring you to be present and be yourself. Your audience wants to see the real you. Not a mask or a persona or a larger-than-life cartoon. When you are not fully present to yourself and your audience, you are robbing yourself of an opportunity to show up in all your magnificence and you’re robbing them of a chance to experience the best of you.

So get present. Take a breath. Leap into trust.

If you want to be a compelling, dynamic, and authentic speaker there is absolutely NO SUBSTITUTE for being present.

 

Obstacles - Curses or Blessings?

In ancient times, a King had a large boulder placed on a well-travelled roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came along and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

                                                                                                 photo credit: communicatebetterblog.com

                                                                                                 photo credit: communicatebetterblog.com

A farmer came along the same roadway carrying a load of vegetables (organic, of course). Seeing the boulder, the farmer laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much effort and exertion, he finally succeeded. As the farmer picked up his load of vegetables he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse was full of gold coins and a note from the King saying that the gold was for whoever removed the boulder from the roadway.

Smiling to himself as he went up the road, the farmer learned what many of us often forget! Every obstacle presents us with an opportunity to improve our state of being. How are you holding and dealing with the obstacles in your pathway? How well are you re-framing your thinking about obstacles as things to embrace rather than things to getting angry about or avoid?

To quote Walt Disney, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me…You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

 Next time you face an obstacle (and we’re pretty sure there’ll be one), how quickly can you remind yourself to consider it a blessing and look for the silver lining?

 

Powerful Questions

In my decades as a speaker, business coach, and strategic management specialist, I’ve always been a huge believer in asking powerful questions. When we ask the ‘right’ questions we can’t hide. When we ask the difficult questions we are better prepared. When we ask the questions that get us to the heart of the matter, then nothing else matters.

Questions help us to clarify…and clarity in our communication is one of the keys to being able to thrive in our lives—especially when we’re speaking in public.

                                                                                                                         photo credit: philmckinney.com

                                                                                                                         photo credit: philmckinney.com

Following are some questions to use as a preparation tool when you’re getting ready to make your next presentation:

My Audience:

  1. Who am I speaking to/who is my audience?
  2. What are their main issues/concerns/needs at the moment?
  3. If I don’t know the answers to these first two questions, who is the person I can contact to find the answers?
  4. What size will the audience be?
  5. What kinds of stories and statistics would help me draw them into my presentation?
  6. What would they most like to “leave” with? What would satisfy them (if that’s my goal) or make them think/challenge them or move them or…? (Be clear on what outcomes you think they want.)

Me:

  1. What state of mind am I in as I’m getting ready for this presentation?
  2. How do I feel about this audience? Do I have any judgments that I need to suspend about them or their issues/concerns/needs? Any biases (either positive or negative) I should consider?
  3. What do I need to do to prepare myself to speak to this audience?
  4. What concrete, tangible things can I do for myself to get myself in the best possible state to be ready for this talk and this audience?
  5. How much time do I need to really be ready to give this talk? And then take/make that time!
  6. Once you’ve done your outline and preparing, let it sit for a few hours/a day/a few days. Then come back to it, practice it again (maybe in front of someone you trust) and ask yourself, “Is this really singing for me?” “Does this feel good to me?” “Are there any areas I need to tweak to make this better?” “Am I putting my whole self into this?” Perhaps also ask your trusted volunteer audience to answer the same questions from their point of view.
  7. The day before you present:
    “Have I planned for enough sleep? Hydration? Proper Nutrition?”
    “How do I best relax into my readiness and let everything else go?”

Finally, on the day of your presentation, ask yourself, “What do I need to do and be to TRUST the process?”—Trust your preparation, your desire to speak to this audience, your willingness to be authentic. As you review your Personal Intention, relax into your magnificence and let yourself Stand & Deliver!