“Is there any way to teach someone the “gift of gab” or the ability to speak well on their feet,” I recently asked speaker, coach and friend Deb Sofield when I came across her LinkedIn profile.
I continued with an explanation, “I’m a Toastmasters International Competent Communicator and have made lots of presentations and media appearances during my 20-something year career. After having a ruptured brain aneurysm five years ago, though, I don’t think well on my feet. I over prepare and end up sounding stilted and insincere, I explained, adding “My intubation damaged my vocal folds, leaving one frozen, causing my voice to be soft, tentative and breathy, especially with pre-presentation jitters.”
Deb replied so sweetly,” Do you think it is an issue of over preparing so you are not allowing your natural funny sweet easy speaking side to shine?”
AHA! A lightbulb moment!
I flashbacked to a post-work return interview with our PR Department to promote our upcoming Green Business Conference. Before the rupture, I never really “prepared,”per se, and spoke from my heart; it had always worked for me. Because I’d been out and not working on the conference as much, I wasn’t familiar with it, so I blanked big time. Thankfully, I’d taken the woman who HAD been working on the event in my absence and she jumped right in.
In hindsight, I’ve never gotten over that. I remember calling a friend after the taping and dramatically telling him that the rupture had stolen my ability to be a speaker and spokesperson.
So now, whether I have a City Council presentation or even just a thoughtful phone conversation with my boo, I always over prepare. I’ll create an typed and formatted outline or jot one on the back of a napkin. I always rely on it too much and end up sounding stilted, nervous and ill-prepared; I’m depending on it too much and making every speaking opportunity a test.
Deb’s words made me wonder if perhaps I have some PTSD that I needed to conquer. Even five years later, there is no time like the present. Deb armed me with some voice exercises and vocal drills, and I look forward to working on them this weekend. Stay tuned.