Public Speaking Black & White - New Vlog Intro [S01E01]

Public Speaking Black & White - New Vlog Intro [S01E01]

Public Speaking Black & White - New Vlog Intro [S01E01]

Think "public speaking skills"! What are the first associations that come to your mind, your very first memories, lessons learned or surprising discoveries? A lot of people believe that public speaking is all about the stage, the cameras and microphones, the PowerPoints and the Keynotes of this world, but, guess what, it's really not as simple as that! In fact, effective communication belongs to one of those few "skill sets" that will most likely affect just about every single aspect of your life, both private and professional. Great public speaking is about understanding context, making allowances for audience expectations (whether articulated or not), truly understanding the power of storytelling, body language, rhythm and melody, not to mention preferences, structure, creative skills, charisma, and so much else. Above all, however, it's about authenticity! It is this single word, the values and convictions attached to it, or, more accurately perhaps, the absence of authenticity in so much of what we call "public discourse", that has driven me to finally venture into the world of vlogging, the type of communication/broadcasting that I have long seen as the most creatively innovative, but also exceptionally demanding. So here's the very first, introductory episode of Public Speaking Black & White, my very first vlog.
Foto: Łukasz Cioch, LCMedia.pl
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Łukasz Cioch, LCMedia.pl

Interpersonal communication, whether you're talking to a friend or to millions of strangers  (as a TV anchor or a celebrity YouTuber) is hardly an easy thing to explain. I have spent much of my professional career studying communications, public and media relations, teaching it at various university courses, making it the cornerstone of my consultancy, LCMedia.pl. Five years into running a private business, I find myself infinitely more hungry for learning, knowledge and gaining ever more practical experience than during my university years. I guess it all goes back to Confucius and his timeless piece of advice: "Find yourself a job you'll love and you will not work a day in your life."

 

Always show your audience respect through anticipation & preparation

How many times have you been to conferences where you felt you were only seconds away from being bored to death by keynote speakers who either read their own slides out loud (assuming you can't read, perhaps) or didn't bother to structure their message into words, sentences and sections that would imply they have a modicum of respect for your educational background, cognitive capabilities or past experience, such as having overdosed platitudes and fluff long ago (at similar conferences, where promising a lot and delivering little should have been considered as a marketing slogan ;-).

Talking to a glass lens is not easy. This is probably why vlogging can safely be considered one of the toughest and creatively demanding formats of all, and yet, there are dozens of YouTube vloggers out there who boast more subscribers than many a national TV channel with decades of history and experience at its best moments. According to Tubics, there are now around 16,000 YouTube channels with over 1 million subscriptions. 500 of these have over 10 million subscriptions. Yes, I know, one needs a moment to digest the implications of such numbers. This topic reminds me of a very interesting conference format you may have heard about (Social Media Week Warsaw). During the last editions I was lucky to emcee, I asked lots of questions to representatives of broadcasters such as the BBC regarding their creative responses to the new rules of the "brave new digital world". 

Why Vlogging?

After a few years of thinking about it, months of research and tons of notes before and after my own "emcee gigs" (not to mention other creative-communication-and-storytelling-strategy-development assignments), the time has finally come to share some of the most valuable lessons learned, but also take my own learning process to an altogether new level in the process, if only by opening up to the invaluable feedback of a global audience.

Starting a vlog, especially in 2019, is a deeply humbling experience, but also a very interesting challenge in its own right. Most importantly of all, perhaps, it puts the audience (needs and expectations) at the heart of the creative process, by definition. Learning the skills required to successfully emcee a wild variety of industry conferences, congresses, international festivals and fairs really looks easy compared to the challenges of creating a successful, practical-insights-driven vlog, as opposed to light-hearted entertainment.

Remember your first time in the spotlight? Of course you do!

Imagine an audience of 10,000+ surrounding you in a physical space of a a large event venue, a concert hall or an arena, now that the word is back in fashion. While you are at it, imagine the blinding spotlights, the sound of emotions building up, the tension and the suspense preceding your having to "go out there". Before this moment arrives, it's a question of months, weeks and days spent on planning and preparations, and finally it's only hours, minutes and seconds separating you from "Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen".

The first time you will ever be invited to stand on the stage in front of a (large) crowd as an "emcee" might not be as easy as it will likely seem on paper, in your event script, for great many reasons. But then again, are any "first times" ever meant to be easy, really? What would be the fun in that, and what about the painful lessons, the mistakes made, the introspection and the corrective measures they will likely set in motion? After all, in so many instances, we only really know how to connect the dots looking backwards, don't we?

To make matters a little bit more challenging, unless you are deeply narcissistic "by nature", chances are your entire immune system will conspire to "play against you" for a while, asking you to PLEASE RUN!!! at least several times on multiple public-speaking occasions, before you even start getting used to so many eyes focused on you, let alone understand the variables that separate quality from pretence in the long run (pardon the pun).

The Public Speaking Paradox

The world of public speaking is packed with tiny little ironies of its own. Just like in boxing, you don't have to be the world's former heavy-weight  champion to make for a fantastic boxing coach, although in-depth understanding of the discipline's key success and failure determinants is absolutely key. Similarly, to be the coach behind the success of many a great speaker, you don't have to be the best of them all on the stage, you only need to be a great observer, someone with enough distance to your own judgments and ego, to be able to verify the viability of the practical experience you gain over the years. Last but not least, you also need to be a great storyteller, capable of explaining your reasoning in ways that makes the people you aspire to coach accept your argument, first and foremost, on a purely logical level.

The Questions

In case you wondered, there are probably very few "magic ingredients" to a great speech or a memorable presentation. Intuition, research, practical experience, authenticity and careful observation are much more reliable companions on the way to great public speaking. In the vlog episodes that will follow, I will focus especially on providing answers to questions such as:  

  • What kind of skill-set evolution does it require to handle a variety of public-speaking situations? 
  • What matters more (in general): the talent, the looks, the show, or, perhaps, preparation, research and event-specific knowledge?
  • What are the common mistakes made, the lessons learned, the misleading assumptions, in other words, the long road preceding the moment when someone starts calling you professional, effective, successful, maybe even charismatic?

And one last thing

They say it's important to set specific goals and yardsticks of success and failure, so here's one: If all of the experience shared, the questions raised and the answers provided on this blog will have meaningfully helped at least one person by this time in 2020, I will definitely conclude it was worth the effort. There are, of course, dozens of questions I will do my best to address in the Public Speaking Black & White series. In the process, I will rely on a highly personal blend of theoretical knowledge and practical experience (as a communications, public/media relations practitioner), but also someone who has had a number of jobs with communication and creative as the two key requirements. Having emceed/facilitated/hosted over 300 (often international) conferences, congresses, debates, concerts, interviews and on-stage conversations, I should hope I have learned enough on the way. And don't get me wrong, the most valuable lessons I have learned came from not only trial and error (which sharpens your reflexes and anticipation skills) but also mistakes made. Mistakes are not to be feared. They are to be embraced instead, as the most important sources of practical knowledge you will ever find, costly as they can be on a purely emotional level. 

For me, all of the past experience has been by far the best inspiration to continue learning, to keep passing the test of scrutiny towards open mindedness, again and again, to keep continuously defying all forms of complacence, stubbornness, even blind foolishness and ignorance. Sustaining a fundamentally humble approach to the great many public speaking scenarios life can throw at you (at any given moment, in case you haven't noticed ;) requires genuine, as opposed to pretend, humility.

Having said that, vlogging is definitely not a perfectly natural habitat for me, so I will need some time to get used to it and adapt. In the process, I will definitely make good use of some (hopefully constructive) feedback from all and any of you, i.e. whoever chooses to watch the results of my work and share their impressions and expectations under the short video clips that will follow, in weeks, months, and hopefully years to come. Every now and then I will also invite some very interesting guests and contributors, and talk to them in the form of a thematically-structured interview. Their knowledge and practical experience has been an inspiration to me over the years and perhaps the single most important thing we can do with inspirations in life is...to share them with the world at large.


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