Transformational Speaking –
If You Want to Change the World, Tell a Better Story
Author: Gail Larsen
Our world is in great need of transformation, and each of us is an agent for that transformation. Gail Larsen (speaking and coaching consultant, founder of Real Speaking) has placed the focus of this book on moving beyond the words, and finding the “speaker within”. It doesn’t hurt that the book has a lively red cover, with a message from one of my favorite people at the bottom: “There is nothing more moving, inspiring or effective than speaking from your heart. Gail Larsen will take you there. – Lindsey Wagner.
For those who wish to speak, Larsen covers everything from the obvious (defining your message and refining your delivery), to the not so obvious (managing the dynamics of a room and building a connection with an audience of any kind), to the really not so obvious (getting everything down in writing before agreeing to speak, making sure the group you are speaking to is one that you have a message for, finding out in a seminar venue who is speaking before you and after you, checking out the room ahead of time … there is a never ending list here!
The function of a transformational speaker is to reach people on a deep level, and inspire them to action. Discover your core message, communicate it powerfully, and ignite a passion in others. (Think “I have a dream” here.)
The book begins with praise from such diverse people as Larry Dossey M.D. (author of The Extraordinary Power of Ordinary Things), Lindsey Wagner (actress and humanitarian), and Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. (cultural anthropologist and author of The Four-Fold Way and The Second Half of Life). Each of them testifies to the ability of Gail Larsen to be a storyteller and power for transformation.
In her preface Larsen talks about receiving the Small Business Administration Tennessee Small Businessman of the Year award, and being invited to the White House, in honor of the success of her business – Tennessee Women’s Career Conventions. She talks about how daunting it was to receive this honor as the first female “Businessman” in the state of Tennessee. Faced with a multitude of speaking engagements, she had to learn to develop the skills to work with large groups, and get her message across. She eventually joined the National Speaker’s Association, and became the NSA’s first full time executive vice president. Four years later she resigned, and formed Keynote Camp, an annual program meant to provide a comprehensive, intensive introduction to professional speaking.
Throughout this book, Larsen talks about the method that she has taught since 1991 in her Real Speaking workshops. She makes the point that a speaker can be remembered for their powerful presentation skill, or they can be remembered for their message. If the message goes deep enough to stir passion and action, then this person is a transformational speaker. This book was written expressly for those speakers that wish to be agents of change, for those that have a message of change that they wish to present to the world. These are people taking action, people who want to make a difference.
She talks about the myths of speaking, and about the six principles of transformational speaking: (1) you are an original, nowhere else duplicated, (2) you are a hero on a journey, and your journey defines your message, (3) the world we experience, both personal and planetary, reflects and expresses who we are individually and collectively, (4) you can’t figure it all out, you can’t make anything happen, and you can’t make anyone do anything, everyone of us holds a different strand of the web of life, and we each must heed our own call, (5) use your authentic power with those that can hear you rather than the force of argument with those who can’t, (6) you must be personally sustainable to do the work of change, cherish your precious, worthy self.
Larsen encourages each person to claim their gifts and talents. I found interesting a full two page listing of the qualities of a great speaker. The reader is encouraged to choose at least three qualities from this list that is fundamental to them. She also talks about each speaker taking their best material from their own Hero’s Journey and weaving it into their speeches. They have to step out of their own comfort zone in speaking, move away from that predictability to allow their material to flow.
Larsen presents the four disciplines of Star quality – that which make a transformational speak shine: (1) vary your tempo, (2) align tone of voice with your message, (3) add verbal punctuation, and (4) enliven the voices of your inner selves and characters. There is a great list of voices presented here – from abuser to hero and beyond – that really open up the mind to how many voices there are out there!
The advice is given to know yourself first, and then your audience. And then be prepared to be surprised! Understand the differences in styles of thinking, and the differences in audiences.
The reader is taken through how to put a presentation together, how to use quotations and humor, and how to create a sense of intimacy with the audience. Then the unknown factors in – the logistics of the speaking venue (size of the room, dead space (large room, small audience), and available equipment.
Calming, grounding and centering yourself before speaking is also discussed. Deep breaths and prayer are both tools that help here. Being aware of your own energy, of your own dynamics, and being good to yourself is also addressed. Doing back to back to back venues can have an adverse effect on how we think, and how we feel.
Through paying attention to more than just the words (indeed, to more than just the message) can become an agent of change. Be true to yourself – be authentic – and be true to your message.
I found this book to be of great value. The voice is very professional, yet very personal. Good use is made of personal stories to highlight the points made. This is excellent reference material – to be referred to again and again, and not just read through one time and then placed on the bookshelf. For those who teach, or for those who speak, this book is a manual for success.
© April 2009