A Short Guide To Using The Force Like A Motivational Speaker

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So I went to a motivational speaker thing-y a little while ago and I really hated it.

First of all, I want to make it clear that I don’t think there was anything wrong with the speaker or what he was saying. But after about fifteen minutes, I felt like I was stuck in a room full of despairing souls having their brains happily tenderized by a mallet of charisma. Now, that’s not necessarily what was going on. There were probably plenty of folks in that audience having a perfectly good time, experiencing perfectly legit ‘ah hah’ moments. People weren’t being abused or manipulated.

But I realized later on that I was reacting strongly to the experience because I grew up attending churches like this. So I feel defensive—a just a tad bit cynical—when I find myself in crowds of people being whipped up by an admired leader-figure.

Anyway, in order to deal with my discomfort, I went into full-on analytical mode. I started taking down notes about the techniques this speaker had incorporated (consciously or instinctively) into his oratorical approach. I figured I might as well generate a ‘how to be a motivational speaker’ list while I was writhing inwardly in my business casual attire.

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February 20, 2015

‘Be The Change Room’: 3 Novel Ideas For Beating Presentation Anxiety

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As a truly spazzy stage fright sufferer, I deeply emphasize with nervous clients who are about to make presentations or go on-camera. In the tenth grade, all music and drama students at my school were forced to try out for a production of Annie by singing ‘Tomorrow’ in front of the teacher and a few student adjudicators. My audition ended in wracking on-stage sobs after a mere one or two shaky bars. I was crying so hard that my sniffles and choke-sounds were reverberating in the Suddenly Most Uncomfortable Auditorium In The World. That’s me.

I can travel from 0 to 100 on the anxiety-meter in less than 10 seconds.

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November 28, 2014

Defining ‘Salvo’: Thoughts on Whole-Brained Communication, Marketing, Mindfulness & the Internet (Part One)

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[Read Part Two of this post here.]

[Read Part Three of this post here.]

When people ask me about the name of my business, I quote the dictionary definition that I’ve memorized by now.

The Merriam-Webster tells us that a salvo is ‘a simultaneous discharge of two or more guns in military action or as a salute.’ Just as the military maneuver is a strategy for overwhelming the enemy at the very outset of a battle—an attempt to stun them so completely that they are not able to respond before the guns are reloaded for another deployment—in the world of oration, an ‘opening salvo’ is delivered by a speaker who knows how to seize the undivided attention of her audience as soon as she opens her mouth. 

So a salvo is powerful, captivating, overwhelming. It’s a red flag swishing under a bull’s snout. That concept is clear enough. But what fascinates me about a salvo is the idea of artillery coming from multiple guns simultaneously. That’s where the meat of the metaphor is for me.  A single shot fired from an enormous cannon might be devastating but it would not classify as a salvo. What defines a salvo is what occurs before its deployment: the coordination of multiple elements for maximum impact.

I like to talk about ‘whole-brained communication’ as being my ideal for communication. When I experience communication that is truly arresting, captivating, inspiring, or memorable, it is usually when it involves a seamless blend of elements that balance and complement one another. I can divide these elements into columns, differentiating them from one another (and believe me, I do), but the truth is that their power comes from working together in concert, functioning as indistinguishable parts of a whole. That whole is the salvo.

Imagine you are reading a brochure about an iron supplement and you see a bulleted list of all of the benefits this pill conveys to your body, complete with footnotes that reference peer-reviewed medical studies. Then, you look up and see that your grandmother has entered the room and is performing one-armed push-ups. She pauses in mid-pump, smiles at you and says, ‘Take your iron supplements, kid.’

You’ve just received the same information about the benefits of iron supplements via two completely different channels, both compelling and convincing in their own way. Even though we know that the left and right hemispheres of the brain don’t really function independently of one another, for the sake of illustrating the differences between these two information-channels, we can say that one represents left-brained communication (oriented in facts, data, verifiable claims) and the other, right-brained communication (based in subjective, emotional, imaginative or visceral ‘truths’).  The marriage of right and left, data and story, verifiable fact and emotional resonance, makes for a powerful communication experience, one that satisfies all of the mind’s need for truthful information in a variety of forms. That’s ‘whole-brained’ communication and that’s what I call a true salvo. 

(In part two, I will discuss goal-oriented and mindful communication, specifically in the realm of marketing and communications.)

[Author: Kristin van Vloten]

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July 31, 2014