How can I match what I did previously? This is a question public speakers face regularly. Repeating a successful performance presents a challenge because factors that impact communication change from moment-to-moment and individuals must be ready to adapt to fluid circumstances.
Former Rockets coach and current ABC/ESPN basketball analyst Jeff Van Gundy continually promulgates the belief that the “energy” a person manifests is key to achieving a victory or suffering a defeat. However, the same levels of energy may not always be present within an individual. Still, in sports and public speaking, it is important to recognize that the energy or effort a person exerts is critical to achieving consistent success.
A successful presentation requires a cooperative relationship between a speaker and the audience. In Book I of the Republic, Plato provides an example of how the communications process works or doesn’t work. On his way home, Socrates is accosted by a large group who want him to accompany them to a party. Seeing that he is outnumbered, Socrates inquiries if he can employ dialogue to convince the group to let him proceed to his intended destination. The response he gets from his detainers is as follows: “Can you persuade us if we refuse to listen to you? Simply, the lesson is that communication works best when one person speaks and another willingly listens and vice-versa. Then and now, attentiveness is a component that is not always existent in human affairs.
Repeating a successful presentation is impacted by how much of the presentation is written and how much of it is impromptu. Written content can be employed again and again. But a speaker may not be able to recall the parts of a presentation which were extemporized. It is always good to make notes of unplanned remarks right after a performance to ensure an impactful thought is not lost due to the intervals between presentations. It is difficult enough for a person to remember a statement. It is even more challenging to remember the reasoning that sustained an idea if it is not recorded.
It is not uncommon to have doubts about the challenge of conveying thoughts in a meaningful and interesting manner when presented with an opportunity to speak. These doubts can be overwhelming. But doubts can be conquered by finding meaning in a phrase or thought that places context to your life experience. For example, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche protagonist says, “I say unto you: One must have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.” How does this relate to vanquishing doubts? The statement suggests that chaos is natural to the human condition and should not be shunned. Individuals should be mindful of the chaos within and understand that its elements if processed properly enable a person to generate the will to overcome self-doubt and transform into a shining star.
While addressing the subject of public speaking, the English philosopher David Hume suggests that conditions that are conducive to eloquence may not always exist. As time passes, special moments generated by special individuals may not be possible. Not all eras have prominent statesmen and orators like a Demosthenes or Cicero. The former lived in ancient Greece and the latter in ancient Rome. But, Hume suggests that through great effort and full application of a person’s talent, the challenge of constructing a substantive presentation that is concise, coherent and cogent may be achieved in any period.
In short, even if a person is not Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, or Martin Luther King Jr, an individual can meet the challenge of repeating a successful speaking performance by being fully cognizant of the seen and unforeseen challenges presented by everyday life.
(Presented by Hector de Leon at the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 2013 Emerging Leaders Institute)