You have nothing to prove…


You have nothing to prove, everything to share.

Take a deep breath. Release. Relax. Repeat…

You have nothing to prove, everything to share.

Operative word #1 – “prove”

Merriam Webster: “to show that (someone or something) has a particular quality, ability, etc.

Speakers who try to ‘prove’ something are already at a disadvantage because they perceive a battle in which they must take a defensive position. This includes the desire to defend a title or duplicate a particular level of performance. As soon as speakers believe that they must uphold a certain image or fulfill certain expectations, they are approaching the communication process in the wrong way. They have become central, and the proper focus on connection with the audience by sharing a meaningful message is compromised.

Operative word #2 – “share”

Merriam Webster:  “to let someone else have or use a part of (something that belongs to you)

The more that communicators can think of themselves as “sharers,” the better. Sharing springs from caring about both the audience and the message. Speakers who share, offer their stories, their encouragement, their information — trusting that valuable lessons will be received by those who listen. The speakers see themselves merely as channels to carry their messages.

Dale Carnegie taught a similar lesson when he would metaphorically refer to the difference between a window and an exhibit as he trained new speakers. He insisted that the best speakers should think of themselves as windows that let the light of their messages shine through as they speak. Otherwise, a speaker who feels like he is ‘on exhibit” will be tempted to prove something to himself or to his audience members. Beware.

Yes, I understand that debaters think in terms of proof, evidence, and substantiation. Good for them. SHARE that information. Speakers are more resilient and robust mentally when they enter the communication process from a strong position of sharing. Share what you have prepared, what you have predicted, and what you have practiced and polished. You will prove your points best by sharing what you know.

For those of you who are already struggling with inner doubt and frustration, pause. Before you become rattled and think that you must prove something – get out of your own way.

Relax and repeat…

You have nothing to prove, everything to share.

Message not Manner – Be the WINDOW

light_through_a_window Here’s a favorite insight from Dale Carnegie:

“A good window does not call attention to itself. It merely lets in the light. Good speakers are like that. They are so natural that their hearers never notice their manner of speaking; they are conscious only of the message.” ~ from Public Speaking for Success, p.153.

So be a “window” this year and stay intentional about not “blocking the view.”  Let’s not get in the way of our own message.

Here’s what we know…

The speaker’s delivery should never draw attention to itself. Nothing the speaker does vocally or physically should interrupt the communication process. The following specifics will help us minimize our manner and instead magnify our message:

  1. Never refer to parts of a speech in the speech. For example, referencing parts of an outline (i.e., “my thesis,” “for my first point,” “in conclusion.”) interrupts good communication. Instead, use creative language and rhetoric to help your audience track your thinking rather than cloud your message by identifying components of the speech itself. Then you will be more window-like.
  2. Do not merely think of your speech in terms of its needed components as a forensics event (i.e., “I don’t have enough blocking,” “I need more accents,” “I have to have three points”). Of course, I ultimately always encourage students to address and include these elements, but we must not put the cart before the horse. Your story or message must define these fundamentals, not the other way around. For example, find a story worth telling and discover the characters and blocking imbedded in the tale. Simply adding superfluous machinations will be a distraction and get in the way of your message or moral.
  3. Ask people you trust to evaluate your speech either as a “blind judge” or a “deaf judge.” This will help you refine your actual delivery so that nothing about your voice or body will deter your listeners.

So, get out of the way and be a window this year. Your message and audience can then connect more easily and we will see what you want to tell us.

Here’s to looking right through you…