the inspiration blog

This week, Donald Trump’s wife Melania made headlines when she was caught plagiarizing a speech of Michelle Obama’s from 2008. Even though it was just a small segment from her keynote, that’s what got all of the attention. (If you haven’t seen it, check out a short video that shows Michelle and Melania side by side. Notice your reactions to their speaking styles as well – we’ll get to that in a bit.)

Regardless of your politics (although I can’t exactly say I’m a Trump fan, by any stretch of the imagination), let’s look at what this teaches us about both speechwriting and delivery.

First of all, it doesn’t matter whether the plagiarism was true or not: it completely hijacked the public’s attention away from the message she was trying to impart. So we need to be careful with how we write our talks, so that we have our audience’s eyes on the goal. (See below for more on this.)

Second, if you’ve watched the comparison video, notice who you trust more… Michelle or Melania?

Comparing their delivery styles

Michelle is relaxed and has great expressiveness; Melania is stiff and wooden, with almost no facial expressions at all. Bodily relaxation and facial expressions are key components to getting your audience to trust you; they also highly contribute to becoming more confident – because it’s hard to be nervous if you’re totally relaxed! In fact, you have to be relaxed to let your true charisma come out… and to find true presence.

You might say, “Well, Melania is from another country, so it’s expected for her to be less comfortable.” That’s possible. What I’ve found, after having worked with clients from 5 continents, is that non-native English speakers hold greater tension and have more anxiety in public speaking. However, disposition is not destiny. They can apply the exact same techniques I teach everyone else, and find relaxed confidence and presence – I’ve seen it countless times. The key is simply to commit to your training, and you’ll get there.

And that’s important. Because when you’re truly relaxed, and really connect with your audience, you’ll have their trust.

What Melania vs. Michelle implies about being original

Most people care about speaking with their true voice. And because of that, many people – especially those interested in authenticity, as you likely are – may resist elements they’ve been told to do, like employing speech structure.

It’s possible that you may feel confined by it, and “just want to express yourself authentically.” However, speechwriting – both for keynotes and if you are speaking to expose people to your services – needs structure. You need to grab attention at the beginning, have them excited throughout, and be in the palm of your hand at the end. 

Here’s the good news: there’s a difference between structure and being formulaic. If a talk is formulaic, that means it’s predictable. You’re not surprised by what they say next. Many people who’ve learned to “speak to sell” have been given fill-in-the-blank templates with verbiage that isn’t how they normally talk – and audiences who’ve seen a few speakers with the same templates verbatim can know what’s coming. That’s formula.

Good structure, on the other hand, is invisible. It’s there, but it’s organic. The audience is moved and persuaded. The speaker has written the talk using clear guidelines… and she has found room for her own voice to come out. One of my favorite sayings from my graduate theatre training was, “Structure creates freedom.” For example, working from home may sound desirable… and yet possesses challenges for many because there’s no outside structure to get anything done. With public speaking, you want some amount of structure so that you’re free to color between the lines however you like. Just make sure that there’s enough coloring space! 

What’s the big lesson here?

While it’s easy to criticize Melania and the Trump campaign, let’s remember: public speaking is an art and a science. From dynamic delivery to gaining confidence and presence (and of course writing the talk itself), it takes time to master. Many can do it half-decently, but few stand out – and those who do grab your attention have most likely had real training.

If you want to make a difference, and really claim your voice, I encourage you to embark on that path. Because the world needs what you have to say.

One of the really difficult lessons I’ve found, as I’ve grown my business, and gotten increasingly known, is dealing with the projections (sometimes extremely negative) that people have placed upon me. So: where do projections arise from – especially in regard to authority figures, such as teachers, leaders, coaches, etc.?

My experience is that projections upon authority figures usually reflect people’s issues with their parents. Like how Dad yelled, and how you felt angry/rebellious/blamed/anything… how Mom didn’t listen, and you had to try extra hard… that kind of thing then affects how we deal with anyone who we believe holds a semblance of power over us.

In this circumstance (and in many others), people begin to perceive themselves as victims, and to place all the blame upon the other. Of course, I have been at fault of doing this in the past. I’ve gotten better at it… and being on the other side of it has certainly accelerated my learning.

While this is still a working model, here are my thoughts on how to handle it.

1) Notice whether how you are treating authority figures, of any kind, is the same as you felt about (or wish you could have responded to) your parents.

2) Remember that they’re people too. They’re only “above” you if you choose to have that perspective.

3) Take responsibility for your own actions. When you go into blame, you are disempowering both of you, and creating a distortion of what actually happened. Instead, take responsibility for what you may have created by simply acting out old patterns, and placing someone in shoes that didn’t belong to them.

4) Choose to be vulnerable, and engage in heartfelt dialogue. Have an intention to create healing and connection, to see if the other person can talk on that level.

These are my initial thoughts. No, not everyone can meet you there. It’s a choice to step up, and to be a responsible person. Yes, sometimes to be more responsible than the person in charge – and at other times, to simply assert we are equal, and we are enough.

And yes, something pretty yucky happened that precipitated this post. (Keeping it confidential, since that’s the appropriate path here.)) Being on the receiving end  – and, in this case, not being able to do anything about it – I choose to take responsibility by choosing to treat all people as well as possible, and to return to a space of gratitude for my life.

Thanks for reading. I hope it’s of service. Please leave your thoughts below.

This is for all who are single. While I received this guidance for one friend, I felt called to share a version of it publicly.

For most of us, it feels very difficult to be single, when being partnered feels “normal.” You may feel out of place and different, maybe sometimes even like there’s something wrong with you.

Here is the truth: you have been given a gift – even if it sometimes feels like a curse.

But it was a choice made on the highest level – which you may know. Like me, you have needed time alone to more deeply find yourself… even if we haven’t always wanted that. And this time you’ve had will allow you to blossom more than you ever knew.

Dive deep into your own river. Drink your own waters deeply. The deeper you dive, the more the Divine You that you will become. The deeper you go, the easier it will be for your future partner to find you.

Dive deep into your own beautiful heart. Love and treasure it. Let it open and open. Release all of the walls you’ve put up to protect yourself. Open and open and open and laugh and be free and cry and shake it out. Release and feel and contract and breathe and open. Even if others don’t get it and sometimes think you’re crazy. Let yourself be guided.

In the meantime, you may meet other potential partners. Enjoy them. Enjoy their support, their affections, sometimes their love, and their play. Let yourself be comforted. Notice your own desires and projections and attachments, and own them. And, in those moments, when you feel deeply alone because it’s obvious that the person you are with is not the one you’re waiting for, honor yourself. Move on, and dive deeper into the endless ocean of your soul.

Trust every moment. There is nothing lacking in your life. You are on the path. You’re doing it right. And you’ll never be alone.

Many Inspiration Blog readers are service-based providers who work with clients. If this is you, in order for someone to decide to work with you, you probably need to talk to them. That is, they might get exposure to you through a free talk or webinar that you give – or, perhaps you offer a free consultation of some sort.

There are a lot of great approaches to doing free consultations and talks. As a public speaking and communications coach for 18 years (err, almost 19), I’ve noticed one element frequently missing from these systems… but which I teach my clients for when they do their own consults and talks. I haven’t yet shared this publicly, though. Here it is:

Your niche wants to be talked to in a particular way.

This is essential. While you do need to know how to put together a great talk and/or conduct a powerful consult, if you don’t talk to your clients in the way they desire, there will be a disconnect. And this impasse will get in the way of inspiring clients to work with you.

Different niches want to be talked to differently – and your ability to establish the “know, like and trust” factor largely depends on how you talk to them. Here are a few different examples:

  1. Your speaking style and tone of voice. Executives, for example, generally desire a faster pace, and to have you get to the point more quickly, than holistic practitioners do. (Niche is far more nuanced than that, but it’s a clear example.)
  2. Vocabulary usage. What terms do your ideal clients use? First, make sure you speak in relationship to their struggles and desires, and not with the lingo or your techniques or methods. Second, use vocabulary that correlates with their professional level:
    • Corporate types use a particular lingo and terminology, and holistic practitioners utilize  very different terms.
    • If you work with intellectuals, they’ll enjoy your using bigger words; if your clients are more blue-collar, those same words will alienate them.
  3. Becoming increasingly fluent in their pains and desires. Intimately know both what they want as well as where they’re stuck. For example, I know very well that many of my clients suffer from nervousness or fear around speaking… or having a monotone voice… or don’t know how to craft a powerful talk that inspires and enrolls.

You also need to know about who they are personally. Most people I serve are on a path of personal development and spiritual growth, as am I – so I also express that clearly when I talk with them. Oh, speaking that way will repel those who aren’t my niche. And that’s a good thing: I get to work with clients I love, and can refer out those who would better be served by someone else.

If you don’t have a niche…

Have you had a practice for more than a year or two? (At first, it’s good to try working with different people, hone your skills, and get a sense for you who like.), If so, then honestly… it’s time to hone your niche. It’s essential. If you don’t know who your clients are, you don’t know where to find them, among other things.

In terms of communication and speaking, if you don’t have a niche, you will likely be speaking very generically – both in terms of how you speak and your message. Which means that you won’t be particularly compelling to anyone. Well, you’ll still be yourself… but often when we are trying to speak to everyone, we can wash out the colors of our true personality, and not shine in our full glory… and that’s of course what inspires clients to work with us.

Let me say it again: a successful practice for service-based providers – like coaches and holistic practitioners – needs a niche.  A good niche, one that’s right for you, is defined so you get to work with all of the clients you LOVE, and doesn’t exclude anyone with whom you want to work.

By the way, as an Intuitive Business Strategist (one of my hats), one of my favorite things to do is to help coaches and holistic practitioners clarify their niche and message very quickly, so that it connects deeply with their life purpose and highest service. If your practice lacks focus (and maybe profits) because of not being clear of your audience, you’re invited to be in touch – email me or schedule a time to chat.

In sum, by deeply knowing your niche – and how to speak to them and how to serve them – you can love them more fully. And they’ll feel loved. That’s my idea of good business.

How do you talk to your niche? How do you bring out your personality, and connect more deeply? Or, what problems are you facing? Leave a question or comment below.

After emailing my community and posting here, I received a huge amount of feedback. Much of it was positive and thankful; others questioned how I could doubt the jury and due process.

It’s a complicated issue. The prosecutor has widely been regarded as not having done his job well (and even in August was named as historically siding with police, and his father was a policeman), and the grand jury has been put to shame by the American Bar Association. Plus, Blacks are 20 or 30 times more likely both to be shot and killed, and to be prosecuted, than white people.

Here are some links I’ve assembled through my own research and through the help of friends. I hope they’re of benefit.

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/25/7287443/dorian-johnson-story

http://www.newsweek.com/ferguson-prosecutor-robert-p-mccullochs-long-history-siding-police-267357

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/prosecutor-faces-criticism-ferguson-case-27187809

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fy49SyK95E

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/justice-scalia-explains-why-ferguson-grand-jury-was-completely-wrong

http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white?utm_campaign=sprout&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=1416930099

http://www.vox.com/2014/11/25/7281165/darren-wilsons-story-side

http://billmoyers.com/2014/10/27/century-racist-policies-created-ferguson/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/24/as-a-federal-prosecutor-i-know-how-hard-it-is-to-convict-officers-like-darren-wilson/

http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=b493e6c4d31beda32fdaf8e2d&id=73514e334b

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2014/08/things-stop-distracted-black-person-gets-murdered-police/

http://qz.com/250701/12-things-white-people-can-do-now-because-ferguson/

I was planning on posting something different today – on how to talk to your ideal clients. I will do so… but right now there is only one thing on my mind. So I wrote this up, and also created a short video about it.

If you haven’t been following the story, here’s the background. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot 6 times and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. And a grand jury just decided to not indict Wilson.

I live in Oakland, California, which has a bad rap for being a dangerous unsafe place – if you’re not from here. In actuality, Oakland has both posh, upscale neighborhoods as well as poor, economically-challenged areas; it’s also one of the most diverse communities in the country even as it’s rapidly being gentrified via the San Francisco Bay Area’s skyrocketing housing prices.

Tonight, I met with a group of friends in an 18th floor apartment one of them has, just a short walk from my home. From our safe (and, definitively privileged) location, we watched protests, police in riot gear, and hundreds of people streaming onto the freeway and stopping traffic. As I write this, the sound of helicopters is omnipresent. Similar protests are happening across the United States.

Many people in my community reading this live outside the United States; or, you may be in the U.S. but feel far away from the issue. Unfortunately, while we have a black president, we by no means live in a “post-racial society.” Unconscious prejudice and racism are still prevalent. I’m disgusted that this is still happening; the 1992 Rodney King riots occurred while I was in college, under similar circumstances – and this is still happening?

Watching these protests, and feeling heartbroken that this is today’s news and not decades old, had me feel the need to write to my community and just say this:

YOUR VOICE MATTERS.

What you say matters. And, if you don’t say anything, that matters too.

Look. While I have really strong feelings about what’s happening now, I’m called to just use this as a reminder to tell you to speak up.

I didn’t name one of my online trainings Claim Your Voice because I thought it was catchy. This is one of my deepest beliefs: we will create change in the world once we choose to step up and say what we need to say.

If you’re not speaking up about what you care about… well, let’s refer back to what pastor Martin Niemöller wrote about the rise of Nazism, as quoted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is not to imply that people of color can’t speak up for themselves. They have powerful voices. But those of us who benefit from white privilege also have a duty to 1) really get what this is about, and then 2) speak about it. Here’s my favorite quote on the topic I’ve seen so far: “White privilege is me being outraged and angered by the Ferguson decision rather than utterly terrified.”

Do it. Choose to speak up about what’s important… to you, and to the world. 

You can make a difference. For example:

Write and give a speech.

Write a blog.

Create a YouTube video.

Whatever works.

What do you need to speak about? What have you been holding back saying? Why? What are you afraid of? It’s okay if people don’t like you. Really. They may not anyway.

But we have to speak.

You can disagree with me if you want. It’s an explosive issue. It should be. But I really want to know what you deeply want and need to speak about.

Leave your comments below.

Here’s an interesting little story about what we take for granted: how technology transforms our lives, our mindsets, and our experiences.

When I was departing Bali in September to return to California, I saw an elderly man escorted by his younger relatives, heading into the airport – likely to meet an arriving relative. He was new to airports: in fact, I witnessed what must have been his first experience with a moving walkway. He stepped onto it with great hesitancy, and *leaped* off of it at the end.

And maybe he was the “healthier” one. We’re so technologized at this point – yes, with our smartphones, but with so many elements of technology that we don’t even think about anymore. Is this healthy? We of course gain great conveniences – but what do we lose? With this cyborgian mindset of having things done for us without even thinking? Is there an aspect of being human that gets lost?

Action: When you find ourself inconvenienced by something technological that doesn’t quite work right, try taking the very slow route – and reveling in it.

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