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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.

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.

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.

Happy New Year! Today’s typically the day for discussing resolutions. We all know there’s a trap in saying we want something… and yet it not happening. So let’s discuss another term that often traps us: potential.

Right now, “potential” is one of my least favorite words. I have so many big dreams for what I want to do with my life’s purpose and work in the world… that it can start to feel like a burden after a while. Feel familiar? I’ve also experienced this with dating. We can feel a lot of love, connection, commonalities, and potential for a life together… and yet find ourselves struggling due to whatever dynamics are present. The potential is real, but is not what’s at hand.

Focusing on potential keeps us stuck in possibility – and can even prolong suffering. While it’s good to dream, it’s very different than actually choosing to take action and bring something into reality.

Similarly, we may judge ourselves as not having potential, talent, or the ability to do something… even though we actually can! It’s often our beliefs about ourselves that get in our way. In this case, our perception of potential is a negative and limiting trap.

Whether it’s in reference to yourself, a relationship, a job, or anything in your life, here’s my suggestion: forget about its potential. Instead, decide what you actually want to happen. To create.

Here are a series of steps that I’ve found to be helpful:

1)   Examine your current circumstances. What do you want to change, or bring into being?

2)   With that in mind, look at what you’re willing to take action on in the immediate future. Don’t think too far off. And your goal can be a stretch, but make sure it feels exciting, and not too big that it weighs you down. (You can always do this exercise again in the future with bigger goals – so just what truly feels like the next steps right now.) You may want to go into meditation, and ask Source to provide you with insight – but also really listen inwardly as well. What choices make your body and energy feel lighter and freer?

3)   Acknowledge outside circumstances that are beyond your control. Know what you absolutely can’t change. Often, this is another person, unless they want to and are ready. Note areas that feel intractable… and look at steps 4 and 6 to make sure that’s true.

4)   Figure out where you need help – and then research and utilize outside resources. Find out where you need assistance. There may be more possibility for bringing things to fruition than you currently realize, and we need help with areas where we’re not experts (unless we want to take a really, really long time). This could mean reading a book, looking into a loan or grant for personal or professional uses, or getting support from a coach or professional, among other things.

5)   Make an action plan – and do it! Get as specific as possible, with small steps that are doable – not big goals that are intangible. There’s a difference between “get a job” or “get a client” and “go to 2 networking events this week, and follow up with new connections.” And if that’s too hard, simply researching networking events is a good step – or even turning on the computer. Break it down into whatever feels doable.

6)   Get help with your blocks. Nothing to be ashamed about here – we all have them. Whether with a therapist, healer, coach, or perhaps a skilled friend who knows you well, let go of the illusion that you can do it alone. We all need support.

7)   Celebrate! Even taking little steps is a big thing if you haven’t been doing them. Give yourself little rewards, and be kind to yourself.

You may think of other steps you need as well; this just a template that I hope you find useful.

Now, the truth is that I’m really writing this for myself. And hopefully it’ll help you too. I’m committing to doing this with my life. Want to join me? (I’m pretty busy with other projects, but if there were sufficient interest, I’d consider starting up what I call an Inspiration Team – so that we can do it together. This isn’t a pitch; I just like to be of service.)

What would you like to create in 2014? I’d love to hear about it, and to hear your thoughts on my pretty unconventional take on potential.

Please leave your thoughts below in a comment. Blessings for a joyous, prosperous and wholly fulfilling 2014!!!

Every Saturday morning that I’m in town, I walk over to the farmer’s market near where I live (a cute neighborhood in Oakland, California, right by a lake). I love buying organic fruits and vegetables, in season, straight from the people who grow them – and have gotten to be friends with some of the vendors too.

At the farmer’s market, I’ve made it a regular practice to buy flowers. Sometimes I see a glint in a passerby’s eye, a “knowing look,” wondering what lucky woman is getting them.

But they’re for me. That’s right: every week I buy myself flowers. Sure, if I’m dating someone, she may be getting flowers too. 🙂 But I first buy for myself the color and arrangement that I intuitively feel will nurture me that week. And when I look at them across from my desk over the coming days, I feel kindness toward myself.

It’s a self-love practice.

Self-love is one of the most important things we need to find confidence – in life, and certainly as speakers. 

As you know, we are our own biggest critics. Which means that we’re generally the ones getting in our own way, and stopping ourselves from enjoying life and appreciating our successes. For example, many speakers get angry at themselves when they make a mistake.

Have you ever had a speaking engagement, or something else with high stakes, where it mostly went well… except for that one thing didn’t go quite right? Did you fixate on that one little issue, and blow it out of proportion? Or, did you notice it, take note of what to adjust for next time, and then appreciate all of your hard work as well as everything that went well?

Yes, it’s possible to do that! But it takes practice, and changing our orientation around what happens when things don’t go as planned.

One of the most essential aspects of speaking, and confidence, is our relationship to ourselves. Instead of being self-critical, could you be kind to yourself? Become your best friend, instead of your worst critic?

For some, self-love feels like a tall order. So I often start my clients off with generating compassion instead, using a compassion meditation that begins to change their response to themselves. This is a repatterning of self-destructive thoughts and feelings that, unfortunately, we pretty much all do. Your goal is to be able to be kind to yourself when something doesn’t go right – when speaking, or in life.

There’s much more to the topic of dealing with “making mistakes” (if there really is such a thing), including more fully trusting the flow of life. And we can develop greater capacity for handling whatever arises – because with public speaking (and everything else, for that matter), it will never quite go as we expect! Still, generating lovingkindness toward ourselves is a pretty great place to start.

So, whether you buy yourself flowers, do a metta/compassion/lovingkindness meditation, or another practice, please: be kind to yourself. I guarantee that when you are nicer to the person you spend the most time with – yourself – you’ll not only feel better. Your audience (and everyone else, for that matter) will also sense this, and feel safer with you as a result… and welcome you into their hearts even more.

Will you share your comments and feelings about this below? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, blocks, how we know ye well. You’re so good at surfacing when we want to move forward. But there it is. Perhaps it’s a creative block, and you can’t finish creating that poem / painting / song / macrame that’s awaiting. Or, it’s an emotional block, such as fear, frustration, anger, pessimism, or other negative feelings. Yes, those are blocks – they inhibit us from moving forward, and make us stop dead in our tracks.

So let’s look at some way to work with them. Here’s the first.

Look at your blocks. But rather than being upset, frustrated or, well, blocked, there’s another choice: honor them. Stop wishing they would go away. Perhaps they’re actually a gift in disguise. Like with anything negative, it’s possible to turn to it and say, “Like all things in my life, this is a lesson that seeks to bring me health and healing.” Ask what it’s wanting you to heal and shift within yourself, or possibly externally.

Part 2: mental blocks and the Law of Attraction

We often have a myriad of opinions and thoughts. I can’t deny that I sometimes favor complexity rather than reducing something down so that it loses all the nuances.

And yet, often the most power comes in simplicity. In truly listening to the heart of the matter, and conveying is as succinctly as possible.

That’s why these posts are relatively short – to give you enough to really sit with and meditate on. However, if you ever wonder, “Jonathan, what about X? Could you talk more about Y?” then please ask! Your comments, inquiries and feedback are always appreciated.

Action: Before expressing all aspects of a situation, really breathe into it, and feel what’s most true for you. And express it as such or act on it directly.


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