Finding Your Style

Social media requires branding to successfully promote a product (film) or person (director). The packaging of the brand comes from the artist’s style, which he or she might not understand. Style is the essence of who the person is professionally as displayed over the long haul of a career (or season, in the case of those who rebrand or reinvent themselves).

Last Friday, I bumped into two young people who were talking about their future from a sterile vantage point. The black man talked about rising above his blue-collar job to management and the white woman shared how she positioned herself with her B.S. and Masters degree to become a social worker.

It was as if two stereotypes sat in front of me, so I asked a few questions and was amazed at the answers. There was one specific truth that I learned in those shared minutes that continued to echo in my head every day since: Artists can find their style by participating in three part impromptu sharing sessions.

SHARE WORKS IN PROGRESS

The man revealed his real interest wasn’t in management, but in music. While he wasn’t classically trained, he was confident that his music rose from his soul and could touch the heart of others. I asked him to sing a sample and we were all amazed at the tone and quality of his voice.

My eyes saw an hourly wageworker trying to make ends meet, while my ears heard a professional singer waiting for his magical break. More importantly, it became very clear that he had a new style that hadn’t yet been exploited within the entertainment industry and it was worth the listen.

He didn’t realize that he had a style, but it was clear to all those who gathered around as his voice attracted passers by. Can you picture the tone of a Sinatra mixed with the passion of a JLo? His style broke all stereotypes and was refreshing.

CREATE OFF THE CUFF MATERIAL

I asked the man if he could create something on the fly. He asked me to give him an example. Not being a singer, I asked if I could share a story. He shared his love for stories and asked me to proceed. After getting from him who the main character was and where the story took place, I started the story.

It was more fun watching the growing audience’s expressions than it was making up a story on the fly. The man was so amazed that he participated with emotional responses, as the main character experienced various conflicts. The audience also started to gasp and cheer appropriately.

I’ll never forget the disappointment on the man’s face when my story was cut off due to the circumstance at hand. He wanted more and I learned a lot about myself in those few minutes, as I got a glimpse of the style in which I shared the adventure.

DISCUSS EVIDENT STYLES

The audience and the woman witnessed two men with two distinct styles emerge in a short conversation. While time didn’t allow for it, each person was capable of sharing and discussing the styles that were evident in the presentations. That type of feedback helps an artist to focus on whatever rises from their heart for a future performance.

Discussing the styles also helps the artist let go of preconceived misconceptions, which I’ve personally struggled with. But I’ve learned that it’s not the style that makes the artist, but the artist that gives rise to a style. In other words, I firmly believe that depending on where we are in life, our style will shift and sway to reveal our heart whenever we create or perform.

My experience last week proved that artists can find their style by participating in impromptu sharing sessions that are broken into the following three parts: Share works in progress; Create off the cuff material; and, Discuss evident styles. The acknowledgement of what comes from the experience drives the artists to find his or her personal style.

Copyright © 2015 CJ Powers

Converting Speaking Fears into a Great Talk

It happened the night I crossed the stage during my talk. Halfway across, my foot stuck to something on the floor and jolted me to a stop. I attempted to lift my foot, but the sticky goo sucked it right back to the floor. I lifted it again using both hands and saw a sticky pink substance that adhered my shoe to the platform.

After swallowing my pride, I reached under my shoe and pried the sticky gum off. It was yucky and made my fingers stick together. I wondered where it had been before it ended up in my hands. Eew!

I pried and pulled, but nothing released the pink goo’s grip from my flesh. Then it dawned on me. When I was a little kid, I got balls of bubble gum from a penny dispenser and thought that rolling it might help set me free. I rolled the gum on top of itself in a circular motion.

The pink swirl formed into a little ball and it was no longer stuck to my hands. I lifted it up and admired the fun food from my childhood. Then I looked around and quickly popped it into my mouth to reminisce the full flavors from my youth. It was chewy.

Without thinking I started blowing little bubbles and popping it. I felt like a kid all over again, which gave me an idea. I blew out a long even breath and watched the bubble grow to four inches. I blew more forcefully and it grew to ten inches. I blew even harder and needed to hold the enormous bubble with both hands. It was huge.

I wondered if my childhood fear still resided within my bones and took a sharp object from my pocket. I stiffened as I raised the pin like object close to the bubble. Then I braced myself for the impact and pricked the surface.

BANG!

The make-believe bubble deflated in seconds and with it, my fears of public speaking.

Many of our fears as a young child are unfounded. Our prowess as adults gives a vantage point that helps us to understand our top two fears in life. The second, being the fear of death, and the first, public speaking.

In the moment when the giant bubble burst, I realized my new freedom. The fear of speaking had disappeared and I enjoyed giving the remainder of my talk. It was a revolutionary time, as I also understood the three steps to converting speaking fears into a great talk: fully participating in a speaking club; receiving encouragement from my peers; and, emulating my favorite speaker.

Participating in a speaking club started when I walked in for the first time. I was greeted with smiles, handshakes and warm welcomes. One woman suggested the best way to get a feel for the group was to dive in and give an impromptu talk, which I did with a bit of trembling. My question was easy to respond to based on my experiences and I filled the two-minute talk time with a simple life story.

I continued to give talks in each subsequent meeting in order to establish a pattern of speaking that would strengthen my skills through repetition. One woman saw my growth over a half dozen talks and recommended I compete in a humorous competition where I gave the talk that opened with me stepping in bubble gum.

Receiving encouragement from my peers over a dozen weeks gave me the courage to compete in the humor contest. It also empowered me to share several funny moments from my own life that had the audience laughing out loud. Receiving encouragement during my preparation gave me the confidence needed to face an audience and judges.

Those encouraging me made a significant difference in my approach and skill development. Their authenticity and affirmation supported me in taking risks that got me to the next level of competition and brought me to the moment when the fear of speaking disappeared, for which I’ll always be thankful.

Emulating my favorite speaker gave me a temporary confidence that allowed me to explore my own style of talk and storytelling. It forced me to learn my content well in keeping with the one I emulated.

This process helped me to quickly learn what techniques worked best for me and I soon found my voice in my word choices, content-based impromptu, and life stories. This gave rise to a new confidence that empowered me to step into that imaginary gum to kick off my talk.

It’s comforting to know the three steps to convert speaking fears into a great talk: fully participating in a speaking club; receiving encouragement from my peers; and, emulating my favorite speaker. I hope you will take this same journey and find yourself having a significant amount of fun in the talks you give going forward.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers