“I’d rather calm down a geyser than have to jump-start a mud hole,” is a quote that I have loved for many years, because I think it puts things into a very appropriate perspective.
I have the opportunity to lecture or speak on a semi-regular basis. For my work, for the service I do, for the kids’ school when we needed to talk to the city counsel, meetings, when I teach… yada. Sometimes it’s planned, sometimes it’s impromptu. And generally whatever the reason, it is for something I am passionate about.
However, I also recognize that my passion can cause me to speed up. This is exhibited not just in my language, but my heart rate and breathing too and internally I feel myself winding up like a guitar string on its last leg. And when you are keyed up, everyone around you picks up on it too and communication is often not as effective.
So my tactic to deal with this before each occasion is to take a few seconds and breathe. And if I can, meditate even for just a moment. Deliberately slowing your breathing also calms your heart rate. It’s a useful technique as a mother to calm a restless baby. But for speaking, I do not abandon the passion – I transform that fire into a slow calm burn, even visualizing it to help my mind, and body, comply. And I pace my words. Allowing for the occasion in the process for punctuation, fueled by that passion, to come through at the appropriate time.
I do this because that passion is the fuel. That passion is what allows me to do what I do best to communicate a message, whatever it is, to others.
Public speaking, and I think likewise leadership, is often like a musical performance. To truly capture interest (and understanding) from beginning to end, there must be a marriage of elements. Being calm and controlled in action and delivery is part of it. And all through that is a chord of passionate fuel that maintains the process and carries it all through. There has to be a source of passion that peeks through part of the time and punctuates your audience’s experience of your communication. Whether your audience is your boss, the planning group at work, the students you teach, or the business owners considering your fundraiser.