Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Down with "success-speak"

Much of the coaching I do involves helping people to learn skills and techniques to help them improve as public speakers but sometimes it happens that unlearning things shows itself to be more of a challenge than learning them. Let me explain.

There are a vast array of products and services available to people who wish to improve their public speaking ability and many of them are very good - I offer a heartfelt thanks to all those people who provide them. Much of what is available, however, is limited, misguided or flat-out bad. The main complaint I have to lodge is that these products and services create a style of presentation that while, efficient and practical, is ultimately empty and inhuman; a kind of "success-speak". This style of speaking lies somewhere between a radio dj and the stereotype of a used-car salesperson. These people know how to engage a crowd, how to put their points across and are frequently successful in business as a result. The question you might well ask is, "if it works, why do you have a problem with it?"

Alright, let's cut right to the chase. I do not coach people to help them earn more money, I coach them to give them a better understanding of what factors define the way they put together ideas and express them and then help them to take control of those factors and become better communicators. If they choose to use this power of expression to earn more money, which they certainly can, that's fine, if not, that's fine too. There are many other avenues they could explore relating to their creative aspirations and personal life as well. In fact, it may just be that by becoming a better communicator you will finally have the ability to express the fact that you truly hate the life that you live with your high paying job.

Going back to my original point of "unlearning"; I find it is often far more difficult to get people to drop the robotic "success-speak" habits than to teach them new information. A good rule to remember for most situations is to make sure that your speaking style is not that different from the way you would speak privately to good friends, not in content, but in tone and sincerity. We have enough technology to master in our lives without turning ourselves into robots so down with "success-speak" and up with the expressive person you really are.

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