“I am not good enough at this,” is what usually goes through your mind at a certain point of any creative project.
Usually right before the deadline.
When I am recording my Everyday Positivity links and I think “ugh why on earth is anyone going to like these?!”, or when I am halfway through a painting commission and I think “gah this isn’t how I wanted it to look! Why can’t I do it like Picasso?”, or most likely when I get to rehearsing my presentation so many times and I think “this just does not feel new enough – no one is going to like it!”
Inevitably on all counts, I make the piece, I show it to the audience and the feedback is great. I had nothing to worry about.
The problem: You get too close, and you get too saturated in it
In her book “Running Like A Girl” Alex Hemingsly recounts a dinner where her friends are asking her about the running she is doing for the book (for which the deadline is looming) and she loses it, having a massive strop about how she never wants to run again.
She got too close. She got too saturated.
Countless podcaster friends and event organiser friends and writer friends and broadcaster friends all tell of the moment where they think “I never ever want to do this again”!
They get too close. They get too saturated.
Inevitably they push through the feeling, and they create something wonderful with a huge adrenaline surge that makes them want to do it again (rather like giving birth where you forget the pain so you do it again – big THANKS hormones!)
An artist friend of mine once gave me some great advice about this feeling. She told me whenever I created a piece of art that I shouldn’t look at it for 6 weeks. “Art gets better in the drawers,” she said. Funnily enough writer Stephen King says something similar about the art of writing, in his book ‘On Writing’
If what you are doing feels like it’s rubbish, then it’s time to put some space and time between it. I record my Everyday Positivity a little in advance so when I hear it go out it could be a week since I recorded it. I am always pleasantly surprised by it – that it is much better than I thought it would be. Mostly because I have forgotten what I’ve said during the recording!
Space and time allow you to give yourself some useful feedback. Use it to get confident in your ability, to get self-aware, and improve your self-belief. Nine times out of ten a speaking client will watch themselves back and say “oh that’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be”. Space and time provide objectivity, it helps you to forget the nerves you felt in the cock-up, and look at how you could have dealt with it better.
So, if it’s not got better in the drawers, then you know you can work on the craft some more. If it has, you can stop berating yourself in the process.
Audible has launched the long awaited “Audible Shows”, with a pleasingly small raft of programmes for you to try out – but what first?
“Audible Shows” is Audible’s move in to the podcasting arena, and it has finally launched in the UK. The audio book behemouth, now offers short form audio programmes in various formats and on varied topics. They have commissioned new original shows, as well as provide a platform for some others. And in a podcasting space where the choice is overwhelming, Audible will provide some curation for their audio loving audience, to discover new and relevant audio.
In early 2017, I was lucky enough to be part of the focus group for what was then named “Audible Channels” in it’s beta state. The interface I saw then, compared to the interface I loaded on to my Audible app now, is massively improved. “Audible Channels” was overwhelming – but the content largely was good. “Audible Shows”, has started small (pleasingly so), and you are able to download the shows to your device as part of your Audible library. Even so – there are choices to be made and you will likely be drawn to the big hitters: Joe (Wicks) and Mo (Farah), David Mitchell and Danny Wallace are all there.
So here are my heads up on an alternative top 3:
What Goes On Here with Sam Walker
Sam Walker (BBC Radio 5 Live) has had this long in the waiting. The first season of her podcast “What Goes On Here” is on Apple Podcasts, but when you find her show on Audible Shows there are 4 seasons’ worth. Walker interviews people who have experienced adversity and how they have overcome it for the better. Adversity for her interviewees has come in its wildest forms: drug addiction, incarceration, failing to perform at the Olympics, losing a child are just examples. The key to this series is to hear how each person learned, changed and grew from that moment in their life. It’s heart warming, inspirational and heart breaking all at once.
Sam is a fantastic interviewer, well researched, warm and will ask that question on the tip of your tongue. Well worth a listen.
Sue Perkins presents Zoopedia
Sue Perkins presents shortform (like, 11 minutes shortform) pieces revealing the weird and wonderful things about weird and wonderful animals. This one was a hit with my kids (although you might want to listen first before you play to yours – there is some saucy language/references from time to time).
Sue’s witty narration about the animal in question, be it a Duck Billed Platypus or a Pink Fairy Armadillo, is interspersed with comedy sketches that bring the whole thing to life. Perkins is excellent. The sketches are funny. And you’ll walk away with a knowledge of animals you did not expect. If nothing else it gives me real pleasure to listen to something with my kids, to hear them laughing in the back of the car, and asking for the “Bee one” again and again and again.
Six Degrees of Assasination
One thing I really love about Audible Shows is the audio dramas that are available. I was a big fan of the We’re Alive podcast (now finished) but since then have found it hard to commit to another audio drama – and to know where to find them! Audible Shows will set a bar on quality and for this reason it was easier to commit to Six Degrees.
The whole thing begins with the Prime Minister getting shot at a public engagement and then you follow 2 MI5 agents (played by Freema Agyman and Andrew Scott) solve the case, and they open up a can of worms in the process. I always find audio dramas need a bit of time to get your ear in – this is no different – but once in it’s gripping!
Those three will keep you going for the next few weeks, as Audible builds the content in their app. Based on what I saw in the focus group for Audible Channels in the UK, there are more shows coming to Audible Shows (watch out for “Days That Changed The World” and Naomi Alderman’s “Zombies Run! – The Way of All Flesh”.)
For now I have lined up two that look right up my street: “Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel” and “What Were You Thinking?”. I go to them knowing that the quality will be high, and the storytelling strong – all to fit the Audible brand.
Ever delivered a talk or a workshop and things go awry? My best “awry moment” to date was delivering a workshop at Social Chain in Manchester. The CEO’s dog, Pablo (in pic), decided to start licking my leg. Even when staff got him away from me, he would sidle back and start again. (it wasn’t that gross I promise!)
It proved yet again that nothing can be lost from taking the time to rehearse. The process of practice has so many benefits.
1) You Get Confident With Your Content
Making sure the first time you say something in a meeting, pitch or speech is not the first time you say it out loud, will save you from so many mistakes. Rehearsal allows the muscles in your face to get used to the words, and it trains your brain to start sorting your points in the right order. You are less likely to stutter, say something you didn’t mean to, or get over zealous.
Tip: say it out loud in the car on the way to the meeting or in the shower that morning at least.
2) You Can Make Your Talk Succinct
Practice means you can give your points brevity. The “Rehearse/Edit” process allows you to hear when you are waffling, or when you get boring.
Tip: film yourself and watch it back the next day. You will be able to see immediately if you are saying too many words that have no impact
3) You Won’t Miss A Trick
Confident speakers will tell you they don’t have to rehearse. They know what they are talking about and they can get up and do it. Except these are the guys that when they reflect, think of the great idea that could’ve made their talk better. At least one run through means you get the best out of your content.
Tip: If you’ve not had the idea while running through your talk, film yourself and watch it back. Just like you will see what needed to have been taken away, you’ll also notice what you can add.
4) You Can Cope With A Dog Licking Your Legs
(or your kids walking in in the background, or any unexpected event)
Madonna is renowned for making her dancers rehearse so much so that if something goes wrong (like a cloak no being removed properly) all they have to think about is what’s going wrong, not their moves. Same goes here.
Tip: if you want to get your talk completely memorised you should repeat repeat repeat until you can do something else (like cooking or tapping a rhythm) while saying it out loud.
Pablo. One of the dogs allowed to roam in the offices at Social Chain (and he happens to be the CEOs)
Pablo the dog decided that my legs tasted great, once he started licking, he could not stop. When I moved: he followed, when the staff removed him: he returned, in the end I spent the last 5 minutes of the workshop carrying him in my arms. The work I’d put in to rehearsing the content meant I wasn’t thrown: I was able to incorporate the dog and deliver the workshop.
Preparing a speech is hard. It takes time and you deserve to give it the time. But I know, I understand: There can be so much information to get across. There can be loads you actually want to talk about. There can be nothing that springs to mind. And usually you get to the point where you think… “I’ll just deliver the info, no one needs or wants anything more than that…”
It’s time to change the way you think about speaking in public.
From now on think about speaking in public as….
Talking about what you care about
Conversing with a friend
How… put what you want to achieve, why its important to you and how you got there in to your prep.
Here are the questions I ask my speaking clients before we even begin…
What is the purpose of your talk?
Who is the audience and what will they be expecting from you? Where are you?
What one thing do you want the audience to understand from your talk?
What is your connection to the topic? eg What made you proud? What made you laugh? What do you obsess about? What made you sad / frustrated? (the emotions go on and on)
How do you want the audience to think/feel about you when you have finished?
The answers here lay the foundation to how you build a great talk, and a great connection with your audience. You’ll find the stories to tell, and the connections to find.