Today’s post is available via a 2 minute audio clip; or the written content follows too just below.
Frustration, frustration frustration.
A few colleagues and clients recently shared they were mentally caving to frustration. They were preparing for their next talk and realized: they didn’t know what to say.
They have deep funds of knowledge.
They have specific and creative expertise.
They’ve been speaking to public audiences on and off for years.
They are intelligent, driven people with plenty to offer a range of listeners.
Yet their ideas were stuck, as in really stuck…like an elephant caught in spandex. As in, no idea and no sense of permission were escaping the inner workings of their mind.
The ‘It’s Not Good Enough” syndrome: a common cause of blocked ideas
In each conversation with these great professionals one trait unified each person’s predicament: in every attempt to even casually brainstorm a point of view for their speech — each person immediately criticized themselves. Whatever idea they tossed out as a potential vantage point from which to develop their presentation – it wasn’t good enough to them.
Image Unstuck by MC, Creative Commons
Getting beyond cycles of criticism: a 20 minute exercise to help
Even with heaps of expertise to draw from and share, this often happens — that cycle of ideas/delete/ideas/delete.
This whirlwind of self-criticism builds off itself, making the self-perception of “my ideas aren’t good enough” as the only type of creative development possible.
This is a cycle to break.
For our ideas to progress as public speakers at this type of crossroads, the main goal (stat!) is to create a sense of permission with how we express (and assert) ideas.
Here’s a favorite exercise to get unstuck:
1. Set your timer for 20 minutes.
Your iPhone, Android, or old time tomato timer on the stove. Please grab it and set it for 20 minutes.
2. Commit to zero self-criticism.
Before diving into this exercise, dedicate your mind to a criticism-free zone. Grant full authority to your hand, the pen it is about to hold, and the paper it will write on.
2a. Which leads to: turn off your computer and find paper and a pen.
3. Start the timer.
4. Then write down at least (3) assertions in 20 minutes — one or two sentences each — about your expertise and related to the gist of your speech.
Keep writing until the timer rings.
Judge not, judge not, just write write write. And ideally: consider these assertions as points of view too. As in, write down what you hold true about your industry with your expertise in mind, again in one or two sentences per assertion.
Start each assertion with the words “I believe…” if that helps to dislodge thought.
“I believe public speaking is a self-assertion game and a clarity game…and it takes time to achieve both.”*
*Is that a run-on sentence? Yes. Is it perfect grammar? No. Is it an assertion that I hold true as a public speaking professional? Yes.
Does it satisfy the perimeters of this exercise? You bet.
Because the goal is to get unstuck, out of your mind, away from delete-every-idea-syndrome and onto the page before you.
Another raw example:
“I believe social content is an interactive and strong way to build community online.”
or… “I believe public relations means stimulating social voice around your company.”
How about you?
What tactical ways help you liberate creativity when preparing for a speech (and abandon self-criticism with ideas)?
More ideas you might like:
- 3 ways to prepare an Ignite talk with help from fuzzy bunnies, word counts, and passion;
- How to energize your stage presence with social apps;
- The sobering truth about what an audience remembers by Olivia Mitchell.