September 11, 2008

Do you disregard conventional wisdom?

On an episode of "My Life on the D List" where Kathy Griffin will be performing at Madison Square Garden, Molly Shannon asks Kathy if she gets nervous.

Kathy says, "I have my own little crazy system," which includes listening to music and going over her notes. She changes the order of jokes at the last minute and even tries them out on passersby, through the window of her limo. She says, "I don't like to get there early because I get nervous."

Conventional wisdom about successful public speaking says that you arrive early, get a feel for the venue, and meet the audience if you can. It also says that you should be done preparing and practicing well in advance so that you can relax and let your content flow. And I agree with this for most people, most of the time.

Of course, performing comedy is not exactly the same as public speaking, and Kathy is a seasoned professional who has been on stage enough times to know what works for her and what doesn't. She is able to integrate what's going on around her at any moment into her act, which is not easy when you're just starting out.

But if there were one piece of conventional wisdom about public speaking you would disregard (or already do), what would it be? (You already know one of mine -- I love me some ums and uhs.)

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

How about something that is on its way to becoming conventional wisdom? I am getting a little tired of the whole "PowerPoint is evil" meme. Stop blaming to tool folks.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Totally agree with you on that, Lee!

Jonathan Steele of said...

Thanks for the post Lisa,

The conventional wisdom of
you can never practice too much.

I have learned the hard way that too much preparation is not good, as crazy as that sounds.

It can result in a loss of spontaneity and freshness. Or what happened to me, I totally forgot the conclusion. I had to look at my notes. It was a total blank. One of my then coaches introduced me to this concept.

With some highly scientific parts with difficult words, names or terms, I may repeatedly practice just those sections but not the entire talk.

There is one rare exception. This would be when you are being asked to give an entire speech with out notes and it is from a manuscript. Then it becomes like an actor memorizing lines.

There is another benefit... like Cathy Gifford, some of my best changes come shortly before a presentation. So it is easier to make the changes.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

I'm with you on that one, Jonathan; in fact, I wrote a post about over-preparation here: We definitely don't want to lose our spontaneity and end up looking like we're giving a canned presentation!

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