San Diego, August, 1996: I was sequestered for a day in the speechwriters’ room behind the big stage at the Republican National Convention. I was there to “traffic” a speech. I was charged to make sure the one that was supposed to scroll on the teleprompter was the one my ‘principal’ was expecting to give, er, read in front of hundreds of thousands of TV viewers.
Indeed, in the final practice the teleprompter projected the wrong one. Thank goodness I was there to catch it. I mean, what would have happened had she had a few wrong lines? Like her dad wasn’t going to get the nomination? He got the nod and sadly lost the election but happily, I gained one killer lesson in speech preparation. After the ensuing 74 cities we visited over the next 10 weeks, I’m pretty sure I still can say that stump in my sleep today.
I’m no longer a political speechwriter and haven’t been for 15 years, but those early jobs in politics after getting a degree in Speech Communication at Miami University cemented my love for the great orators in our history and orators-to-be of our time. I’ve woven in all of those lessons to my client work since then to help achieve a similar greatness in each person’s own unique universe.
Last October I volunteered to co-curate the first TEDxColumbus event (an independent affiliate of TED.com, presenting short talks on riveting subjects in one evening) and worked with each of the speakers to find their unique story angle that would fit with our theme and the TEDxparameters.
It caused a bit of an awakening.
Fortunately it wasn’t back to that speechwriters’ room, but to that incredibly special one-on-one work with each of my principals in crafting, tweaking, practicing, refining, testing, giving, rehashing and improving their speeches and delivery skills.
I knew exactly what each good presenter did to prepare, and I knew exactly where the ones that didn’t present well failed in their preparation.
The takeway from each of these moments: You get to be an effective public speaker the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Mountains of practice. The question becomes, how best to practice? So today, with my good friend and brilliant collaborator Jan O’Daniel, we are launching ar.tic.u.la.tion.
When I approached her to help me explore this passion I had for helping people find their voice, it was like looking in the mirror. Staring back at me was a veteran writer who in her world helping clients, felt that storytelling was an achievable skill, but people needed direction on how to practice it.
What if we offered something that allowed both unique skills to be learned in an interwoven fashion? What if we could do it one-on-one or in small groups? What if we could help fill a void in this niche where agencies don’t have the curriculum, time or willingness to dig deep with their clients?
Welcome to ar.tic.u.la.tion. Traditional public speaking training married with content training.
Or separate if you prefer. But always complementary. Always mindful of the most important element in this world: the audience.
What you say and how you say it are rarely separated, if you do it right. (Be prepared not to be invited back to speak if you do it wrong!)
I won’t be giving up my PR and Marketing practice for ar.tic.u.la.tion anytime soon. The creative side of that work is still compelling and relevant. But I will be seeking people who have charged themselves with being a more effective public speaker.
We’ll help you find your voice so that you can be heard, understood and remembered.
And indeed, invited back.