Ep #77: Surrendered Speaking - Michelle Barry Franco

The tech didn't work for Steve Job's 2007 iPhone launch. 

Chris Brogan once forgot his notes for a $25,000 talk. 

My client's slides wouldn't work when she went to speak.  

It's a given that sometimes in the life of the speaker tech failures and mishaps will happen.  

In fact, I was recently doing an all day training where things weren’t going as I had planned either. I had been trying to help the participants get message clarity but they were struggling. Struggling hard, in fact.  

Finally, I decided to let go of trying so hard… What did this look like?

It looked like me releasing saying what I planned and instead going with what came to me in that moment. They all leaned in, “This is SO HELPFUL, Michelle” which was not what I expected at all. 

But that’s where the magic in surrendered speaking comes in!

In this episode, I'm sharing about what can happen when we learn to stick through the discomfort, release into it and trust what’s next. (Hint: This is when some of our best speaking and expression shows up.) I hope you’ll tune in!

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Hear what exactly Surrendered Speaking is and why I highly recommend it in moments of tech or planning failure
  • Discover what happens when we surrender to what we know we are here to say without trying so hard.
  • Hear how Steve Jobs and Chris Brogan each recovered from what could have been bad talks by surrendering into the moment
  • How learning to be uncomfortable in the moment and trusting your delivery can lead to some of your best talks or presentations

Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Thought Leadership School Podcast. If you're on a mission to make a difference in the world with your message, you are in the right place. I'm Michelle Barry Franco and I'm thrilled that you're here. Hello, my Thought Leadership friends, how are you? It is full on fall here in California. I'm back home after being in D.C. for a bit and traveling around various places and it's just so good to be home and it's just that time of day, early afternoon with a sun is streaming in sideways and I'll feel is kind of golden and beautiful, so I hope whatever your environment is right now, you're getting a little bit of that golden feeling within you. We are going to talk about one of my very, very absolute favorite topics. I probably say that a lot, but this is really at the heart of what I've been seeing more and more in public speaking and what I want so much for you to get glimpses of and I hope those glimpses grow into just like full on vast views about public speaking and how you can share your expertise in your stories in the most powerful, impactful way possible.

That's all. That's just our plan for today, but before we dive in, I would love if you would, if you haven't already, hop on over to iTunes or Apple podcasts, whatever it's called, whatever your favorite listening app is, would you head on over and give us a rating and review? It's super, super helpful for having this podcast show up in the search and I am hearing more from more of you and thank you so much. Your notes means so much to me. I love hearing how much this is helping you and reminding you of what really matters in public speaking. I know there are a lot of podcasts out there about communication and speaking and business-building and things that are in the general domain of thought leadership and leadership and public speaking. But I know that we come at this differently and I really believe that when you can see that you have so much in you, so much power to make the biggest difference, bigger difference than you can even imagine in other people's lives with your message that you'll get out there and do it and make that difference.

I want that, right? It's about your beautiful voice for good and other voices for good like yours getting out there in the world. So thank you so much for sharing your rating and review and helping this podcast show up for others. I also want to make sure that you know that you're invited to join us in our free Facebook group. It's called the thought leadership school community. If you go to the thought leadership school.com, forward slash Facebook, you'll get straight to the group and you can request to join and we'll happily invite you in. So head on over there. And I share tips and inspiration and stories inside the group and I would just love to see you there. So those are the two things I wanted to make sure you know about before we dive into this amazing topic. That's my very, very favorite top of my list and it's called surrendered speaking.

I want to talk with you about surrendered speaking. So I had practiced and practiced and practiced and practiced before this speaking event, and I knew that I didn't have enough time to memorize what I was going to say. By the way, I virtually never memorize what I'm going to say too high of a bar. I also virtually never recommend that you memorize what you're going to say for a speaking gig. So I definitely hadn't gotten to that place, but in this case, I really didn't have as much time as I normally do to prepare for this event. I just got the information in the materials far more close to the day of the event than usual. So I'm standing in the wings waiting. You know, they're doing the countdown. We're about to start the event and I'm standing in the wings waiting. I could just feel all of this energy in my body.

I was really, really nervous. So I did what I always do when I feel that kind of high, high energy in my body. I took a nice deep belly breath and then I let it go, and by let it go, yes, I mean that air, that breath in my body, but I also mean that I let go of all of the expectations, all of the preparation, all of the trying that I had been doing for the, I don't know, it was probably two, three days before this event when I had practiced and prepared the best I could. I just let it go and I walked out onto that stage and I showed up. I showed up for the conversation that was meant to be had right there in that moment and I am deeply grateful that I know that I can trust this process.

I am so deeply grateful that I know that when I do the best I can to prepare, which includes understanding my audience, doing as much audience analysis as I can, learning about them and their needs and desires, making my best guesses at what those might be when I can't actually ask audience members when I do all that, when I look at my materials, when I write out things that I know I want to say or I speak them into my voice memo and send them to be transcribed because I hate to write whatever my process. When I do all of that, I do my very best a walk around my hotel room or my house and talk to myself practicing what I'm going to say that if I do my very best through that whole process, I show up. I show up on site, arguably the most important thing we do as a speaker, Thought Leader and then I let go and I trust that all of it will work out and it does.

It really does. Every time now work out. We could have a whole discussion around what I mean by workout. Does it go perfectly? Of course not, but by the way, I've learned over the decades that even when I have months and months to prepare, it often won't go perfectly, so we can just take that off the table anyway, so how beautiful it is to know that that is a reliable process. Do my very best to prep and practice, show up, release all that anxiety and the expectation. Walk out there, show up in front of this beautiful audience and serve the very best. I can trust that moment and the next thing that comes, I remember when I wrote my very first one, it was actually my second book, my first book that anyone had in their hands, basically, which was called Soul Power to Your Message.

When I wrote that book, I interviewed Chris Brogan who was one of my first mentors from afar. I studied what he said. I listened to his podcast, I took his courses. This was probably, I think it was back about 2010 but I remember I got to interview him, which by the way was an incredible honor. I was just amazed when he said yes to me back then. It was so fabulous. I got to interview him for my book and while we were talking about speaking and you know, he told his story about being a paid speaker at $2,500 a talk and then guy Kawasaki, another well known speaker and Thought Leader. And also I was in the venture capital world, said to Chris Brogan one day at an event, Hey, I just gave your name for a speaking gig, charge them a lot of money.

Chris turned around to Guy Kawasaki and said, you know, they're passing each other. So this was in passing. He says, what's a lot of money? Guy Kawasaki says charge them $25,000 so Chris was mind blown at first. Then he went and had that conversation with those people who contacted him on guy Kawasaki's recommendation, told them his fee was, I think he said something like $23,000 or something and got that fee and all of a sudden he's a speaker at that level. Right. That's what he charges. So all of that's just a fun story to set the stage that he was out there speaking with really high speaker fees at one of his speaking gigs at the time, he forgot his notes and he had written down notes that he was just going to have with him and at the time it felt important to him that he had his notes but he didn't have them.

What choice does he have? Right? The most important thing we do as a speaker is show up and be there. He showed up and he spoke and of course he was speaking on something around which he had great expertise. And he said to me in this interview, that was probably one of the best talks I ever did to date at that point. And this doesn't surprise me at all. I hear this from clients regularly. I've had this experience myself. I had a client recently who had prepared and practice and we had worked on her talk together and she showed up at her recent event, had all the slides and everything loaded and it was kind of a last minute prep situation. She was counting on her slides to guide her through certain sections and the slides wouldn't work. They just stopped working and she was keynoting at a conference and she had a few moments where she's looking back and going, oh, what are we going to do?

Then she just fell into trust. She fell into trust and started sharing what she knows about this topic that she was brought on the stage to talk about because she has great experience around it. That's why we're brought on to stages. That's why we should be brought on to stages. Anyway, she had a moment of uncertainty but then she just let it go and she trusted that what she would say would be of service. As she said to me and I got to see a video clip of it, she's like, that was probably the best part of my talk I had cause she was so present, so grounded in her own knowing. There's so much that we can trust about what we know, especially when we've done good prep and practice ahead of time. So we've set ourselves up beautifully. Have you ever seen Steve jobs 2007 iPhone launch video?

Such a great example. So the technology went awry, you know the T the big screen was showing the iPhone's amazing this and then something went wrong and the screen wasn't showing the slides and other things that they had planned and so Steve Jobs, who was one of the best known business speakers of all time just went into a story he started telling about when they first started the company. And you know in this story is contorting himself into different shapes in order to illustrate different parts of the story. It's a wonderful moment. The audience is super engaged. He makes some funny comments about how something like, yeah, you can imagine everyone back there is freaking out right now and the audience cracks up laughing because they know that it's kind of like, Oh my gosh, someone's in trouble back there later when we talk about what happened here with the tech, but it's such a great example of here's the situation, but when you've prepped and you've practiced and you know what your goals are and you understand this audience, you can let go and then you can trust.

I was recently doing an all day training and we had been working, you know why? I would share a concept and then we would actually do some of the work around messaging. Messaging can be the hardest part of public speaking, especially for Thought Leaders because there's so much that they know and a lot of what I help them do is get really clear on the thing they want to take a stand for. Well when you do that, you have to let go of other things that you also care about. That can be a tricky process to let go of some things so that you can really take a powerful stand for one thing. So we had been working hard on this, I'd say, and there was some resistance in the room for sure. And some people were saying, I'm so tired of doing this, I don't want to niche.

You know, a lot of the things that come up often in my work with clients. There was this moment where I was like, okay, all of my different exercises and things aren't really working. They're just feeling stuck. So I told the story about how for me, when I first started my business, I had no idea what was at the heart of my own message that, you know, I quit a counseling program. I was getting my master's degree in counseling because I thought I wanted to be a therapist. I all of a sudden had the realization that I didn't need another degree to do the work I wanted to do. Even if I couldn't articulate very clearly the work that I wanted to do, so I was telling this room full of people that were feeling stuck around their message that the only thing I do know is that I believe that authentic, powerful self-expression is the path to health and wellness.

Especially for those of us who are called to say something, to share our stories and our expertise. We see ourselves on stage or in front of rooms full of people in a retreat, in the living room. You know, facilitating an amazing conversation. Any of those scenarios where we're using our voice, our message, and our own stories to serve. I believe that we must access that message, that when we access that message and we figure out how to say it in a way that's really powerful, that it helps us access and tap our own deepest well being, that is a path to well being for us. When I shared this with the room having no idea the impact, I didn't plan on saying this, so I had no idea the impact it would have on this audience. You could hear a pin drop in the room.

I saw everyone leaned forward and one or two people said in various ways, wait, say that again. This is really powerful. I was like, I thought the 10 I had planned to say and the exercises I would bring them through would be the powerful things, but no, it turns out when I got to that point of tension, when I couldn't figure out what else to do and I stopped and I took a belly breath and I let go and then I trusted the next thing that I had to say and I said it. That is what serve that room full of people. I have no idea if it's hitting you the same way it hit them. Right, because it was like an intuitive hit. It was a trust moment. That's what we do. We stick through the discomfort, we release into it. We really trust what comes next.

We trust that next part that we've set ourselves up for that next moment. This is the moment of surrender. This is what I call surrendered speaking. And it is where I have seen the most powerful connection and impact come from. So I grew up in a household where the serenity prayer was sort of lingering about in various, it was on some sort of wall hangings and that we had family members who were in 12 step programs. Sso from early on I heard the Serenity Prayer just in case you haven't heard it. Here's how it goes. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Since the first time I heard the Serenity Prayer, I loved it. I just felt the wisdom in it and I think this, for me, this sort of sums up surrender.

You know, you do what you can to prepare, you change the things that you can change. And then there's a point at which you accept that whatever you had planned, whatever you had in mind isn't working or it's just not getting them over the edge. It's probably working fine. It's just there's something else that's needed. And you didn't know to plan for it. That's when the release comes. That's when the letting go comes and that's where surrendered. Speaking is so powerful because underneath all that prep and planning and beautiful connection with your audience is the next thing that you are going to say and do that will create the kind of impact that even your audience will be probably delightfully surprised by. And by the way, even if they're not, you still have surrendered speaking available to you. You've got the next thing to try and see what happens.

So let's talk about what surrendered. Speaking looks like. The first, and again this is a revelation for me, like all I have done is looked at what has happened when I've surrendered to the moment and spoken in that moment when I've watched clients do it. When I've watched speakers do it at events where I've seen that they clearly were coming into a place that they hadn't planned and they had to move into something totally new that they couldn't totally plan for. The first is stick with it. We have to stick with it. We have to be willing to move through that uncomfortable period, that uncomfortable place. So many people back away from this. This is actually the place that most people are afraid of and so they never get on the stage. But even when you're on that stage, there's an inclination, there's a tendency to want to back away from that and stay somewhere safe.

If you're willing to stay there to ask the question in yourself to trust what might come next, that's when the cool stuff shows up. So stick with it, be willing to be uncomfortable, and then you gotta release the trying. So you've been trying, maybe you've been tangling around, you can tell the audiences and getting at or the tech isn't working or the plan you had that you don't have the props available to you or the room is designed differently than you expected. There's a moment of releasing trying to make what you had in mind work. Then the third element is trusting the message that comes next. What comes to you to say, even if in the moment you don't know exactly how you're going to articulate it or how it's going to land. There's this trusting that everything that's gotten you to this point is perfect to allow you to see what's going to happen next in this surrendered speaking process.

Then finally, and this is the part that's really fun and where surrendered. Speaking gets really cool and this is where you follow that trust into your delivery. This is where you let go in every way. This is when your body lets go to, and I have watched this happen. I felt it happened in myself. When you just stop trying to do it right, you stop trying to do what you had in mind that doesn't quite work or doesn't feel like it right now that you're in the moment. You let go of all that and you let your body gesture the way you wanted to gesture that you don't have to worry about walking the timeline perfectly or you don't worry if you, you know, try to act out some kind of thing and it doesn't work and you have to start over and do it again.

None of it matters because you're surrendering to the best delivery, physical delivery, vocal delivery that you've got for the message that just arrived on scene. So that's what I've noticed that surrendered. Speaking looks like, and I'm saying this because I didn't invent, surrendered speaking, I noticed it and then I sort of wrote it down. I was like, what is happening when we get to that place where we let go and all kinds of amazing connection and presence happens because presence, you know a lot of people talk about executive great speaking, delivery, presence. You know what that is? That's actual connection. Real presence isn't about walking tall and throwing your shoulders back and pausing in certain spots. That's not presence, although a lot of people talk about it that way. For some reason, presence is actual connection. It's letting go of trying so hard. It's being with the people in the room, being with your own expertise, being with your desire to serve with that expertise and experience this particular audience in the best way possible.

In that moment, presence comes from that place. The kind of presence that elicits trust, that elicits motivation, influence a lot of the things that we're hoping to create when we're out there speaking to make a difference in the world. So there you have it. Surrendered. Speaking, you heard me say this last week when I was talking about speaking anxiety and how I deal with speaking anxiety, but I want to say it again because I really want you to know that underneath all of those thoughts, all of those fears and anxieties and worries that you're not going to do it right. All that normal stuff that our human brain does underneath that is your call to serve and inside right next to mixed with that call is your incredible wisdom around how to deliver on that desire to serve. Yes, it's awesome to get strategies. I'm so happy to have you here listening to the podcast and I know I share a lot of those strategies and four part processes.

Even if it is me just looking back and saying, Oh, here's what I noticed that I do, but of course I am talking about the only presentation outline you'll ever need. We talk about belly breathing. There are strategies and tools and they're very cool, but I want you to see that surrendering is safe, that letting go is not only safe for you but really has a profound impact and is probably your greatest strategy, if we can call it that, for making the difference that you want to make growing the business you want to make growing this mission that I know that you want to serve without in the world. I'm so glad you're here. I'm so honored that I get to serve you on your path to creating the kind of difference I know you want to make in the world. It's been awesome sharing, surrendered speaking with you.

This is a pretty new concept for me to be articulating, so thank you so much for letting me be here and share it with you. I'd love to hear what you're hearing in this, and if anything stands out for you, I'd love to continue this conversation, see where it might go around, surrendered speaking. Meantime, have a great rest of your week. I already can't wait to be here with you next week because one of my favorite things is supporting you and sharing your message because you know what? I know, right? You were made for this and I know that because you know that. All right. See you here next week. Take care.

Thanks so much for being here with me on the Thought Leadership School Podcast. If you want specific and actionable guidance on how to become a recognized leader in your industry, you can download a free copy of my book Beyond Applause, Make a Meaningful Difference Through Transformational Speaking at http://speaksoitmatters.com/freebook

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