One of my best friends – my bestie from the leftie – embarked on a public speaking journey about 6 years ago through the local toast masters group at her job at the time.
This is us, aren't we adorable?
Over the years she has gotten damn good at public speaking and is incredibly outspoken about how much she loves it and how she thinks EVERYONE needs to work on their public speaking skills. I agree, working with a bunch of non-communicators all day will make you feel like no one has good communication or public speaking skills. Recently, she has started a group called The Speakers Alliance, a public speaking company that promotes learning better public speaking skills through the Aha! Method. This method is taught in a super cool class on Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/course/public-speaking-pitching-zoom-professional-communication-aha-method/). The Speakers Alliance also has weekly free public speaking practice sessions on Zoom, a cool blog and a brand new podcast which you can find on Spotify – The Aha! Method Podcast.
I have been sitting here listening to the latest installment of the podcast. In it they discuss the funny tips, tricks and gimmicks that some people use to get through speeches. One that we have all heard, if not tried, was to imagine the audience naked so as to put you on a higher level than them. As I was listening I realized that everything that they talked about in regards to Public Speaking is really relevant to any type of public performance. I started listening to it from the lens of Pole dancing whether it is just being confident enough to do it in a class setting or whether you are competing or doing it as your job. Much of the tips that they give have cross over.
Two things they talked about in this episode that I think are worth discussing are:
- Do you perfect your routines, doing them over an over until you could do them in your sleep, or do you work on a routine, perform it an then move on
- Do you have any gimmicks or tricks that you use to psych yourself up before a performance
First is the practice part of it. Unlike with public speaking, which you can practice anywhere, we are often limited with our pole practice. Unless you are lucky enough to have a pole at your house or business, you are limited in the time you have at the studio to practice. For my first competition I had to rely solely on time at the studio. I was a good solid level one, so none of what I was doing was hard but I was having the devil of a time working on my dance flow. I practiced as often as I could – breaking the performance into chunks that I could master and then moving on. Of course, I decided to do my first competition during COVID so it was not in front of an audience. I did it, videoed it, uploaded it and then FORGOT all about it. It’s a good solid routine. It is one that I could polish and make amazing, but the thought of working that hard on a level one routine seems boring and pointless. But is it? Probably not, in fact honing all of those skills would only make the harder skills that much easier.
You can watch the performance here (https://youtu.be/_3hZ8DGQSWk) and see that, although it was passable there is so much room for improvement.
I need to really contemplate that idea of performing and then moving to the next best thing. The truth is, this performance is only about 4 minutes. I should be able to find 4 minutes each time I practice to run through the routine, or even just chunks of the routine, until I could do it perfectly every time. Moving forward, I am going to try this and measure how it works – and if there is any cross over when learning harder skills and routines.
Second, I have never had a problem standing up in front of people and performing. I have been doing it since I was little and sang in the choir at church. Then through college and young adult years I led the music for two church services every Sunday. From there I started competing in powerlifting, so by the time I got to Pole Dance competition, the performance aspect wasn’t a stumbling block for me. But I do have some tricks that I use to psych myself up.
A question I always ask myself before any type of performance is “Whats the worst that can happen?” Literally, one Sunday I was about to play a song and completely forgot how it went. 100% could not remember what the tune, the rhythm anything and I had to say to the church audience “I am so sorry but I have blanked on this song and will not be able to play it” Someone in the congregation had pity on me and started singing the song accapella which made it click in my brain and I was able to join in and complete the song. After that debacle I realized that there really just wasn’t anything that was going to happen that was so bad that I couldn’t recover. So the answer to “Whats the worst that can happen?” is usually “not much that I can’t recover from”. In any public performance setting the worst that can happen is that you royally screw up, bomb, make a fool of yourself, but in the end no one is going to die, the world will keep going and you will dust yourself off and overcome.
I did try the whole imagine your audience naked trick and honestly, I was distracted and horrified by the sight. This works if you don’t know anyone in the audience, but start imaging naked and then lock eyes with your mom and things get weird – at least for me. 10/10 don’t recommend.