INVEST: Putting Yourself in the Game

February 22nd, 2011

A long time ago, I attended the end-of-term evaluation for a singing class. Each member of the class was required to perform one song they had prepared during the previous weeks. Out of the whole group, one singer was memorable. Not because of the song she chose or the interpretation she brought to the piece; we’d seen her do it all before—maybe too often. She stood out because she got up there and threw herself into the performance, almost literally. For a couple of minutes, she pulled out all the stops. The other performers sang all the words and hit all the notes, and I don’t remember them. She took a risk, put something out there and made an unforgettable impression.

As a speaker, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming it’s all about the words. Your voice gets quiet. Your gestures get smaller or disappear, and your face becomes expressionless. You pull back. You dial down the energy. You stop putting anything forward. Then, your listeners become unresponsive because you’re not giving them anything—and that makes you feel bad. You disappoint yourself. You feel weak. Instead, you should be coming out to play.

Your goal as a speaker is to make a connection, and that challenges you to be fully available to your listeners. So turn it up a notch. Give 110%. Throw yourself into the speech. Remember why you need to communicate your message. Reignite your passion and invest yourself more intensely in the delivery.

When you’re completely invested in the delivery of your message, you reinforce yourself. It’s invigorating. You feel strong. So take a chance. Look’em in the eye. Let your voice fill the room. Allow your gestures to take up more space. And remember this: an imperfect speech, delivered with passion, will always trump a polished but lifeless performance.