The Secret to a Mesmerizing Presentation

In the midst of all the noise and confusion, sometimes silence speaks the loudest.

As speakers, we want to stand out, to have people take notice.  But often, in the attempt to gain the attention, the tendency is to look out at what others are doing; so we strive to be funnier, louder, more daring than everyone else.  Unfortunately, in focusing on what others are doing, we lose the key connection with ourselves and what makes us so unique.  As a result, our message becomes diluted, and lacks authenticity.

The importance of trusting who we are really hit home this weekend, when I attended an event called Awaken the Rebel.  One of the speakers, Steve Truitt, gave us an assignment:   to meet with other participants over lunch and talk about our definition of success.  As part of that discussion we were to answer the questions, ‘What do we love? What makes us happy?’

I was amazed at what I witnessed.

Here we were all perfect strangers sitting around the table, yet when I listened and watched each one share what they loved, they literally glowed with the telling.  It was like watching the sunrise come up over the horizon.  There was this exquisite opening of the heart as they revealed their greatest truth – what brought them joy.

sunrise

a new day

I realized then – that it can be as simple as that.  If we, as speakers, can connect to that light, that joy inside of us, and communicate that to the audience, then we have succeeded in our mission.

When we can claim our own voice, speak our own stories, and share our own lessons – the audience will be entranced.  We don’t have to tell funny jokes, or play loud music.  We don’t have to come out wearing our skivvies to entertain.  We only need to be who we are.

And when we are true to that – we cannot fail.

It is as simple as that.

So, the next time you are working on your speech, remember that sweet question, “What brings me joy?” And if you can touch that and share it honestly with your audience, I can assure you it will be a richer experience for all.

To your journey!

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A Writer’s Prayer of Gratitude

It is the last lingering writing of the evening and we are slow dancing to 9:30.

Thoroughly spent by the night’s activities, we have danced, and spun and twirled.  So what do we need of this last piece, as the sweat cools on our backs and we lift the hair off our neck?  Our feet are a bit tender, we smell of clean sweat,  and we long for a cool drink of water.

What is the last lingering writing of the night?

…. It is three women warming up for the new year.  It is the beginning of new tales, of untellings and revealing.

It is trust and heart softening and rejoicing at the safety that is this room, this space, these women.

It is the comfort of knowing that even after all this time, all those pages, all those words, we still continue to invent new characters, new settings and new stories.

Another layer is revealed, soft as the butterfly wing.  Hello?  Surprise?  Where did you come from?  Thank you for sharing.

writing

writing

It is the mystery, the magic of this experience, the ceaseless song that is pen on paper.  It is the infinite imagination that is ours.  It is the wonder at the beauty, the brilliance, the sorrow, the love that is each of our writings.

What lingers is the sense that in this space, this room, with its four walls, a carpet and a couch, is safety.  A cocoon where stories can be shared, pains can be exorcised, delight can be found.  Silly, fun and playful can all come to the table.  And sometimes, it is just obtuse, and ugly and dull.  But always, always it is welcome.

So what lingers is a profound gratitude for the angels that share this room with me tonight, each of us alone and yet together.  Casting out golden ropes to hold to when the waters get rough, or blowing breaths of sweet love as we fly.

Hallmark card?  Perhaps.  But that is welcome too.

So soon it is time to say goodnight, to take sleepy eyes to bed, and crawl into bed next to warm skin and kind hands.  Always kind hands.

To know I am safe, and loved, and welcome.

Amen.

With so much gratitude to my dear friend Deborah Edler Brown

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Want to Know the REAL Reason Speakers Love to Present?

 

Because it is a RUSH!    

Giving a great presentation is Exhilarating, Intense, Mind-blowing

When you are in the zone as a speaker – it is you up on the stage, fully standing in your power, your light, your mission.  It is you, sharing yourself, arms wide open, completely focused and present.

Now, ask any speaker why they present and they will tell you:

  • They have a mission to share, or
  • They want to educate their audience, or
  • Hands down, it is the best way to attract clients, promote their business and witness their bank account flourish.

However, here’s the little secret they don’t always share … Speaking feels good.  It feels really, really good.

Marianne Simon - speaker

Marianne Simon – speaker

When you are in the zone, time stands still and you feel vibrant, whole… alive.  On that stage you are laid bare to the bone, sharing everything you’ve got:  your body, your mind, your spirit, your passion, your love.

In the zone, there is this intimate connection between you and your audience.  Everything is flowing and you are so in the moment, it’s as if you are simply a channel for what’s coming through.

Your audience feels it too.  They feel the connection.  They hear you, see you… get you.  They feel understood and appreciated, fulfilled and motivated, exhilarated and inspired.

When you share yourself in this way, and your audience connects with you – all the rest falls into place so easily:

  •  The new clients that flock to you,
  • Your credibility as the expert in the room,
  • The invitations to speak on other stages,
  • The financial prosperity that is available to you.

This is what a great presentation feels like – and this is what I offer for my clients.

If you would like to experience the ‘rush’ of public speaking, I invite you to sign up here for a complimentary Passion Discovery Consultation.  Marianne@Speak-Your-Passion.com

Go on…  It would be good for you.  Really, really good for you.

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Why Do We Wait for the Holidays to Say ‘Thank You’

This has been a year of extraordinary change and growth for me, as it seems to have been for many others around me.  Perhaps they were right when they said the world as we knew it was ending, because it has birthed so many new and glorious beginnings.  I also know that much of what has made this experience so rich are those who have joined me on the journey.

gratitude

gratitude

So, why is it that we wait for the holidays to reach out and thank those who have touched us, in ways both big and small?  Rather, let this be just one of many days to really cherish those in our lives who:

  • See us with believing eyes.
  • Hold our hand as we walk into the fire.
  • Send us ‘God Speed’ as we take flight on a new venture.
  • Love us, support us, cherish us, stay true, when we might have doubted or debated or procrastinated or waited.

And most importantly to take time, most all the time, to thank those we take for granted.

Who are always there when we need them.

  • Who are always there to answer our calls, to stand in our corner, to cheer our successes.
  • And, who are always there to open their arms and enfold us when the world proves too harsh or the words too unkind.

Because sadly, we assume they will always be there… until one day they are not.

So to all of you – who have touched my life in all the ways that you do – from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you, and again, thank you.

Wishing you all your heart’s desire, and a new year filled with much joy and prosperity.

 

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Ending the ‘Eggshell’ Dance

walking on eggshells

walking on eggshells

I am tired of the eggshell dance.  You know what I mean:

Tired of worrying about what people think or of hurting their feelings. Tired of being afraid to make a mistake.  Tired of talking quietly, cautiously.  Tired of making waves. Tired of tiptoeing thru life. Tired of holding it in, sucking it up.  Tired of keeping it back.

Tired of smiling until my cheeks crack.

Tired of not trusting myself.

Tired of not believing I am loved.

For my whole life I have lived in the shadow of the giant eggshell.  Like most, it probably began with my family and listening to the endless arguments between my mother and father.  They were loud ugly fights where my father accused her of being a ball buster:   Because she dared disagree with him. Because she did not like some of his choices.   Because she would not let him be the man of the house, or so he said.

To my father, She was the reason for all of his failings….

At the age of 12, I dared to sneak off to a party that I had been forbidden to attend.  When they found out, the punishment for this minor crime was not your typical grounding or revoking of privilege, but rather 3 days of being ignored, not spoken to, rendered invisible.  On the second night I reached out to ask for forgiveness and he literally turned his back on me and walked away.

Is that not one of our greatest fears? To be ostracized, found unworthy and cast out from the tribe?

So from that day on, I rarely strayed.  I found the straight and narrow and hugged it tight. I rarely talked back, did all I could to please, became the supreme diplomat.  That is how I lived then and for years since.

But how long can we keep up the charade until something starts to slip.  Until someone notices the desperateness in our eyes?  Until we begin to act out, act in? Until we sabotage ourselves with too much food, to much drink, too much t.v? Until one day we stand at the edge of the precipice, the smile finally gone from our faces, and seriously consider jumping off.

For many years, my only freedom, my only escape came thru my creativity:  my writing, my performing.  At least there on stage or on paper I could finally release all that was me – all my shadows, my sorrow, my ugliness, my sins.  And in this world I could also experience supreme love, joy, glory. In the world of my creativity I could finally be myself  – the full spectrum of the human experience.

But this winter solstice something shifted.  After attending a sacred ceremony I finally came face to face with this realization – that I was no longer a child.  That I had projected my father’s fears into every relationship I had ever had.  That for too many damn years I had buried, hidden, smothered all that I was, except for during my creative expression.  That I had lived the vast majority of my life as a sliver of the glorious being that I was.

So this is my resolution this year.  Enough of that!  This is the year that I will no longer worry about the eggshells.  This is the year that I will go out into the world, perhaps a bit awkward at first, to re-learn how to walk as myself.  This is the year I will not be afraid to stumble and fall.  This is the year I will not second guess every word that comes out of my mouth.

Wolf-Howl

Wolf-Howl

This is the year I will howl like a wolf, soar like a hawk, laugh like a hyena, dance like a fiend.

This is the year the mask comes off, the eggshells smash, the arms reach out – wide open! Because ultimately, this is all we can do – live our life, be ourselves.

To your journey!

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What if you threw a party and no one showed up?

No one showed up

No one showed up

In the past, that fear held me back from fully stepping out.  It triggered all kinds of memories from high school: a time of dreadful loneliness and doubt, of not fitting in, of not belonging.  As an adult, I got to experience that in a big way when I spent blood and sweat and lots of money to produce a play and a whopping two people showed up.  They left at intermission.

These days I can laugh at that night, but for a long time it left a deep scar.

I recently got to face that fear again when I decided to start my own meet up group. Inspired by Loral Langemeier,  I started the Women-Walking-Talking-Networking.    Since I love to walk, and enjoy brainstorming with like minded people, I figured what a great way to network and build my community.  We would meet once a week at the beach to walk, mastermind and support each others businesses.  Then we’d end the walk with a five minute gratitude meditation at the water’s edge.  Awesome idea!  People should love it!

Even as I posted this for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I could feel that fear creeping up, “what if no one shows up?”

So this morning was the first meeting. I got there early, ready to rock and roll, and guess what:  No one showed up!!!!

I had to laugh.  Self fulfilling prophecy?  Maybe?  Maybe not. Morning at the beach

Sure it would have been cool if 5 or 6 great women showed up and we walked and brainstormed and became life long friends (my fantasy).  Instead no one showed up, and I walked alone.  And that was ok.  What I realized as I walked alone is that I have walked alone for the past 10 years.  In the quiet of the morning, I have rejoiced in the beauty of the day, the sparking of my ideas, the greetings with strangers on the beach.  Today was no different.

However, what was also important to recognize was the thing I had set in motion.  The fact that I overcame this fear, I did it anyways.  And the truth is that although no one actually showed up, within two weeks of posting, I had 13 brand new members.  And of those 13, two did RSVP.

This morning was not a failure in any way, shape or form.  True, for next week I might do things a little differently, but this was a great first step.  I did it!   I have to celebrate the action, celebrate the first step.  True, it did not look like my fantasy, but it was a new journey set into motion.

Zion - Angels LandingOne last thought: even though it is a joy to walk with others, ultimately, we also have to be able to stand on our own two feet.  And if we want to be leaders, it may be that for a time we will walk alone.  The charge is to keep on walking.

What is the step you will take today?

 

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How to Answer the Dreaded, “So What Do You Do?”

We Teach What We Must Learn

I was standing outside The Cap Theater in Sherman Oaks waiting to see an evening of women’s monologues.  The event had been created by a dear friend, Christina Dunbar, who started Artistpreneurs On Stage, a glorious program that supports women expressing themselves creatively.

Artistpreneurs On Stage

Artistpreneurs On Stage

As was customary, a group of us gathered outside and began chatting.  Then one of the women asked me the inevitable question, “So, what do you do?”

I can’t believe how I responded.  Even after all the practicing I had done, all the seminars I had taken, I found myself responding, “I coach public speaking.”

Hello!  What was that?  What kind of diluted, piddly answer was that?  That was not what I had been taught.  Not what I had been practicing.  I had been given the templates and the formulas.  Simply fill in the blanks and voila! People will get what you do and then you can work together.

But on this evening, I realized I was missing something.  This ‘something’ was what I needed to figure out because the following month I was going to teach a workshop on just that conversation at the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

They say we teach what we must learn.

I realized that if I wanted my clients to be brave in sharing what they did, I needed to lead by example.  I needed to step up.  I understood then, that the way to answer to that basic question was not just about our ideal client and how we helped people.  It was also about our ability to stand in the truth of who we were and what we believed.  To answer that question as truthfully as possible, we had to claim our passion, our gifts, our voice.

The other key component to remember was that our audience needed to understand us.  It did not serve to answer a question in English when our partner only understood French.  The onus was on us to translate all that whirling of information and passion into a few simple phrases that captured the essence of what we did.

I confess – all this takes courage.  Too many of us are accustomed to playing it small, keeping the light dim.  We minimize our gifts, our passion, our belief that we are meant to change the world.  We answer, “I am an acupuncturist,” “I’m a life coach,” “I coach public speakers.”

On this evening, even amongst friends, I muted my gifts, my talents, my own passion.  I settled for the lowest common denominator, the general rather than the specific.  I did not stand for myself, the work I did or the people I helped.  I answered with the least amount of risk, the least amount of revelation.

They say we teach what we must learn.

lighthouse

lighthouse

What I learned from last night’s performance was that when we do share our full selves, we naturally attract those that resonate with our message.  It becomes so much easier.  We become like a lighthouse, a beacon, leading our listeners safely back to shore.

So the next time I am asked, “What do you do?” I will remember that it is an invitation to a divine question.  It is an opportunity to shine my light so that those who need me can find me.  The next time I am asked, I will take a deep breath and answer:

“I help my clients find clarity in the work they do.  I help them tap into their passion.  And I help them discover how to communicate that vision to an audience so they can spread their message, attract new clients, and change the world.”

To your journey.

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Swimming With Sharks – What I Learned from the Real Ones

Swimming with sharks in Fiji

Shark in Fiji – courtesy X. Passera

They had warned us in advance we would be seeing sharks.  They told us we should all stay together, and under no circumstances, should we go adventuring on our own.

From what I had seen so far on my vacation in Fiji no one had come back with missing limbs or blood dripping from wounds, so I had decided to be brave and go for it.

I did not get off to a great start.

To begin with, I must confess I am not all that comfortable in the ocean.  Though my daughter and husband cavort in it like fish, I much prefer the mountains and trees for my wildlife adventures.  And when in the water I most definitely like to be able to touch the bottom!  So I could feel my heart pounding as they roared us out in this tiny motor boat, further and further away from the mainland.

I was one of the two people actually wearing my life jacket, and I was holding on to my husband’s hand for dear life when we finally slowed down and dropped anchor.  All around me there was activity, as happy people put on masks and fins, splashed into the water and swam away behind the guide.

I was the last one off the boat.  Adjusting my mask, fumbling in my fins, I finally dropped, most ungracefully, into the waves.  In the distance everyone was already snorkeling and  getting further and further away.  I took a deep breath and put my head down to join them but almost immediately the water started streaming into my mask.  What had started as minor anxiety grew exponentially into panic.  The others were now tiny dots in the distance and it was just me and the boat.  At this point, I was really considering just forgetting it and getting back in to wait for them.  Thankfully, however, the guide helped me get my mask figured out so it stopped leaking.  And my my husband came swimming back to lead me out to the group.

Then the real test: to put my head back in the water and take that first breath.  I had to trust that the equipment would work, that I was supported and buoyant in the water, and that ultimately, all would be well.

And, if I really hated it, I could always get back in the boat!

parrot fish Fiji

Parrot Fish – Fiji

I could hear my heart pounding and my breathing thru the tube.  But the equipment continued to work and slowly I relaxed.  Appreciating the big deep breaths that filled my lungs, I started kicking my legs and moving thru the water.  And finally I began to enjoy myself a little.  With each breath coming easily, I was able to notice the beautiful fish with their cobalt blues and bright pinks and the myriad of coral and sea life that was suddenly visible to the naked eye.

We finally caught up to the group who was stopped and circling in the water.  And then, I spotted them: Three white tipped reef sharks.  The real deal.  They were not in a photo, they were not on tv.  They were right there, swimming just below me – around and around.

And what was amazing to realize was that in watching them I was not afraid.  True, we were in a group, and I might have felt different if alone.  But the truth was, it was so beautiful to watch them in their element.  They were so graceful, sleek, beautiful.

White Tip Reef Shark - fiji

Sharks below – courtesy X.Passera

But somehow, their perceived danger to us humans has grown to mythical proportions. In our imaginations, all sharks are the sharp toothed, ferocious, deadly boogymen of the deep.  Opening their huge mouths to drag us down and rip us asunder. ‘ Jaws’ will live on in infamy.

And though there have been fatal attacks, and they are definitely to be respected, the reality of them is that they are amazing, beautiful beings.  God’s creatures, just as we all are.  They have their place in the world and their right to exist.  And it is we who have made them other than they are.

Over the rest of the trip I snorkeled several more times.  Each time getting more and more confident, my heart beating not quite so loudly.  And though I will never be the dolphin my daughter is I am so grateful I found the courage to try.

In hindsight, the reminders I took from this journey were profound.

  • It is in overcoming our fears that we grow (I grew!).
  • It is in experiencing rather than assuming that we learn (I learned!).
  • It is in recognizing how powerful our mind can be in twisting the truth.  And how important it is to stop and take the time see something as it is, not as we imagine it to be.

To all of you on the journey, may you learn to swim safely with the sharks.

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Is it Really Life or Death?

I woke up the other day with a big old knot in my stomach.  This wasn’t really a surprise as I had been expanding at a tremendous rate for the past few weeks, and was bound to hit some upper limit stuff.

Unfortunately, on days like that it just seems to get worse and worse.  My writing felt uninspired; two clients complained about problems they were having with their contractors; and I had just wasted an hour on a computer program feeling like a 5-year old in algebra class.

I knew I was hitting overwhelm in a big way, and underneath it all that was that chatter: “What were you thinking? How will you pay for all of this? You’ve bitten off way more than you can chew.”

At about 2, I’d had enough.  It was time to take a break and head over to my mom’s house to check in with her.  The whole time I was driving there, I could feel my muscles tightening, and that mind chatter going to town.

All the women

So I got to my mom’s house and we sat down for a cup of coffee.  She is a little firecracker – literally at 4’11.  Eighty-four years old, spry, generous, with a laugh that makes strangers smile.  And though her memory is slipping a bit, she can be a bolt out of the blue with her statements.

As always, she asked how things were going, and how my day had been.  So I started my tirade, about how everything felt so hard, so frustrating, so overwhelming.  And she listened for a few minutes before asking me, “but is it life or death?”

‘Huh?’ I thought.  This is my business.  I have important work to do.  I need to make a difference in the world.

“But is it life or death?”

Coming from her, this was a serious question.  For you see, my family is Jewish, and when my mother was a youngster living in Paris, she and her family had to leave everything behind when the Nazis rumbled into France.  By some miracle (that is another story) they were able to slip out of the city and go into hiding with some relatives in the north of France.

She never finished school, and though she didn’t talk about it much, I knew she remembered only too well the hiding, the fear, the lack of food, the true terror of being discovered.   The time they were unable to admit a cousin had died so that they could hold onto the ration card.  And all the things she didn’t tell us. True, it was long ago, but still…

I looked at my mother then, with her big green eyes, her gnarled fingers, her ever present smile and her great big heart.  And it made me ponder the answer to, “Was it a matter a life or death?”

On the drive home, I was much calmer.  I breathed deeply as my perspective shifted and I remembered all the times I didn’t know enough.  Such as when I started my landscape business and didn’t know anything about plants.  And when I gave birth to my daughter, I sure didn’t know anything about being a mother.

So, too with this new business, I would figure things out.  One step at a time.  And it would take what it took to get there.  There was no need to get freaked out about computer programs, and all the branding that had to be figured out, and the learning/growing curve of starting a new business in the 21st century.

But I also reminded myself that the end of the day, the work I was doing was important, vitally important.  If I stayed true to my vision, to my ultimate purpose, then when asked the question ‘Is it really life or death?’ I would have to answer ‘Yes.’

L’chaim.

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Creating a Presentation That Flows

One of the biggest challenges a speaker faces is what information to share, and how to do that in a way that flows easily and naturally.  If you are like me, there are a hundred things you’d love to talk about, but not all of them may be related.  The problem is, if you are not focused and cohesive in your presentation, you can leave your audience a bit overwhelmed and confused.

So how then, do you glean thru your inventory of stories and teachings to come up with something that will educate and inspire your audience and leave them with a clear understanding of their call to action?

Amazon River

Consider using a river as your guide.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that nature is a bountiful source of inspiration and guidance for whatever our challenges might be.  In this case – consider using the image of a river as your guide for developing the structure of your talk.

Take a moment to imagine a river, any river, be it the Mississippi, the Amazon, or the Nile.  Each of them has a main tributary that starts at point A, and ends up at point B.  As it flows downstream, it is fed by numerous smaller tributaries: smaller rivers, streams and creeks, until it eventually reaches the sea.

This same analogy can be used for your presentation.  The main tributary is your overriding message, your objective, your thru line.  And each of the smaller streams is one the various elements of your talk.  The key is that the points all relate to, or support, your objective.

I initially used this process when I was working with one of my favorite clients, the Green Gardens Group.  After we determined the overriding purpose of the workshop, I started brainstorming different modules and techniques I wanted to incorporate.  From there, I began drawing lines from each of the elements to my main purpose, creating a visual representation of what I was imagining.

My first ‘river’

What happened, without planning, was that I had started sketching what looked like a river and its tributaries.  Not only that, but as I was scribbling and drawing, my sketch was giving me clues.  I realized that in my doodling, I was highlighting important points, circling exciting exercises.  Without intending to, my subconscious was guiding me on the flow of my workshop.

What I love about this method is that it is so simple and so freeing; letting your mind, body and intuition all work at the same time.  Note:  you do NOT have to be an artist.  Just pick up a few blank pieces of paper and a couple of pens or pencils.  Here are the steps:

  • What is your thru line, the main tributary?  You must be very clear on your main objective  – it is your guiding light.  Draw a serpentine shape from one side of the page to the other – nice and dark.  Do it again and again to get your hand flowing.
  • Start brainstorming – jot down all ideas you had for your speech around your main tributary.  Just write – don’t censor.  Then start connecting your words to your river, using more of those fluid flowing lines.  Pretend you are in first grade, have fun. Allow yourself to play with the lines.  Allow yourself to circle, color, highlight anything that strikes you or excites you.
  •  Then step back and see what you’ve created.  Notice what your pencil might have revealed, what clues are hidden in the lines.  Then it is a process of elimination.  Ask yourself the question – does this teaching support my message?  Does this story support my objective?  If it does, leave it.  If not, cross it out.
  •  You can use this tool again, as you explore different ways to order the material or the timing of your presentation. If you have 20 minutes – that is one stretch of river, if you have 2 days that is a much longer stretch.

We are visual beings and this is such a fluid way to work.  Let this tool help you map out what your mind is telling you and your heart is inspiring you to do.

So, go grab a few pieces of blank paper – a nice thick pencil or pen, get comfortable and then start noodling and doodling to discover where your river will take you.

What is your Mississippi?

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