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[Speaking-Out-Loud August 2012]Busting Out of Perfection Paralysis
August 03, 2012
Welcome to the August Issue of Speaking-Out-Loud write-out-loud.com's monthly E-zine to help you effectively 'talk your walk'.
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In this Issue
If you don't have time to read the whole ezine, click on the topic that interests you. This month you will find:
The Penalties of Perfection
Dealing with Questions. 16 tips to step through the potential question and answer mine-field safely.
... often much closer and more simple than we realize.
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Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this month's Speaking-Out-Loud!
Happy speaking, and may your words do much more than pass sentence,
There's aspiring to be the best you can be and then there's perfection paralysis. They're close cousins - separated by a very thin line. Step over it and you'll find yourself trapped, stuck in ready-set ... wait!
I need to rehearse just once more.
Ready-set-whoa is a long way from ready-set-go and keeps getting longer each time we stop to fix this, that, and yet another.
Desiring to be perfect is fine but not if it becomes a straight-jacket, stopping us from actually doing what we intend to. Then that quest for perfection is actually a mask for something else with another name. It's called avoidance and its root is fear.
This slant on perfection is one I am on nodding terms with. That's a positive change because once upon a time we were very close. I wore the jacket, squirmed inside its restrictions, but finally learned to see and call it for it was.
There are endless perfection paralysis variations but these were common for me:
All of them appeared as a quest for best but they originated from anxiety about being good enough.
Am I good enough to stand in front of you?
There are two things I discovered about the 'good enough' question.
One was that it can never be answered by anybody else other than yourself. No matter how many times other people give you the big two thumbs up tick of approval, if you don't give it to yourself the doubt remains.
The second was that people don't want you to be perfect. They want you to be you; real, authentic. Yes, they want you to have genuinely prepared to the best of your ability but more? No.
Too good to be true is just that. It's well oiled. It's slick, even robotic. The human qualities have been air brushed out. What's left is a mechanical performance with no room for genuine connection or spontaneity. An audience on the receiving end of that feel 'done to'. They are witnesses rather than participants and they'll feel your desire for perfection as a wall - a deliberate separation. They may even start looking for the cracks.
If you're investing too much time on a perfection quest, you'll know it. Ask yourself why and listen for and to, the answer.
Getting it right all of the time is impossible. We are human. We make mistakes. Ultimately what's important is not that we make them, but what and how we learn from them.
All you can truly ask of yourself is to be the best you can be. Anything else is futile.
Here's three quotations as reminders. Print, then pin where you'll see them.
A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.
Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.
Done is better than perfect.
You're at the end of your formal presentation and now it's time to call for questions.
This can be the make or break segment!
You will have witnessed situations go sideways as the speaker struggles to control and contain questioners.
You will have also witnessed questions answered fittingly.
To make sure your Question & Answer (Q & A) session goes well, here's a few handy tips; the sort I wished I had years ago:
How do you get from one idea to your next?
The ideal is that it is accomplished smoothly, in an easily followed sequence, logically connecting the threads in your audience's mind so that they arrive at the same place, at the same time, as yourself. Without your bridge to guide them they may end up confused and lost, wondering what you are talking about.
To help practice transitions, (as well as story telling or impromptu speeches), here's a handy game to adapt for your public speaking group or class. You can even play it by yourself. I call it Connect the Dots.
The principle behind it is simple. When given two seemingly disparate ideas/topics, how do you create transitions to connect them convincingly?
To play you'll need two sets of topics, enough for every person in your group to take one from each. They could be place names, famous people, activities, colors, emotions, animals, objects ...
Print your topics out on slips of paper and place them face down in two piles.
Invite a speaker to take one from each pile. Whatever they pick up they need to connect in a short speech or story. It needn't be true, it could be a fantastic flight of imagination, but the topics themselves need to be logically connected.
For example, I've picked up Queen Elizabeth and bike.
My speech might be:
When you think of Queen Elizabeth, what do you see in your mind? Are there images of an older woman wearing a diamond studded tiara staring somewhat grimly into the camera? You'll see a diagonal sash across her chest proclaiming dominion over the commonwealth realms. These include countries as diverse as Canada and Barbados - 32 of them in all. That's serious leadership - around 128 million people, including Prince Phillip her husband, their four adult children, assorted wives and grandchildren.
Her daily duties would make many of us wince. She answers letters, talks to government officials, reads briefing papers, plans her diary, makes calls to charities, hospitals, factories, schools, museums or military units, performs civic duties like openings and investitures, and tours . That routine hasn't varied for the last 60 years. The Queen is an institution, revered and respected.
But she's also a person. And despite how difficult it may be to imagine, she'll have good days, bad days and days when, in the words of Cyndi Lauper, a girl just wants to have fun. In a figment of my imagination, she wants to poke her tongue out at all the 'must and mustn't dos', toss the tiara sideways and shuck off the designer gowns. She'd like to walk barefoot through wet grass and float on her back down a summer stream blowing bubbles. One day she'll gallop a horse around and around Hyde Park without a minder and in the afternoon she'll ride a bike. Starting at the top of Primrose Hill she'll fly down, pedals whirring, yelling 'Look Ma no hands.' It will be glorious. It will be wonderful, and she will be free.
Perhaps it was a glimpse into unfettered being that convinced her to take up sky-diving with James Bond for opening of the Olympics. Even her corgis panted and pattered their support. 86 years old and still starring in her own right royal performance. She showed us it's never too late to 'get on yer bike' in whatever form it takes. God save the Queen!
When the speaker is finished put their topics to one side to ensure the new speaker gets fresh ones.
PS. This game is in that E-book (Public Speaking Games - from fear to fun in 28 ways) I've been talking about it for at least the last 2 newsletters.
Click the link if you'd like a little more on managing transitions in speeches. Read Step Four: Linking or Transitions. You'll find explanations with two examples.
We watched a wonderful documentary movie called Happy the other night. Despite having no direct link to public speaking, it was so thought-provokingly good I want to share it with you.
Director Roko Belic and friends set out on a quest to explore the secret of happiness; a journey taking them all over the world. The result is an enlightening evocation, a call endorsed by evidence from neuro-scientists, to recognize and honor what makes us genuinely happy.
The film has received a slew of official awards and a whole lot more from folk like me. Their social media, FB 'likes' and so on, run to 1000's. I can see why. Watching that movie was time well spent, an experience worth spreading. I hope you think so too.
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Thank you for reading the August Issue of Speaking-Out-Loud. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to contact me with any questions through the form at the foot of the Speaking Out Loud Page. I love hearing from my readers!
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Until next time,
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