“When the voice and the vision on the inside is more profound and more clear than all of the opinions on the outside, you’ve begun to master life.” -Dr John
Addressing the fear of public speaking with clear speech practices
by Swan Michelle
I have been speaking in front of massive numbers of human beings, very full time, for 22 years. A lot of words, essays, teachings, theories, songs or sounds have come out of my mouth publicly and overtly. Voice and resonance is my medium and my art.
I definitely had no yearning to be a public speaker or to be so vulnerable as to share my voice this much in front of a bunch of people, yet, here I am. It is the main thing that I do, and for what it is worth, since I do it so much, I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned as well as the daily practices that have allowed me to remain grounded and in my body while speaking, so that I more frequently mean what I say. My aim is clarity, intelligence, innovation, courage, an even temperament and an interconnection delivered from my Universal heart.
“Don’t own your voice. Free your voice.” –Sylvia Nakash, Free Your Voice; Awaken Your Life Through Singing
When I first began teaching yoga I felt like I had finally come home. I knew right away that I would want to teach it. The only part to teaching it that I didn’t want to have to do was to talk in front of virtually anyone. I absolutely was not someone into being in front of others. I was not into theatre. I had no desire to be “seen” or get attention, especially by articulating what I knew in large group settings, possibly getting bashed, put down or ridiculed. No thanks. That was my assumption of that outcome.
To Whom Are You Speaking?
Filtering through what I think others need to hear and what THEY actually need to hear has flipped this thinking, as it’s no longer about me. I am not searching for my opinion on things (which I do have), but the embodiment and maturity of a more Universal resonance that might move anyone listening into themselves, a place that is timeless and personally healing for them. This is far above and beyond my idea of how I think or believe.
If I am working through something personal or have a very strong opinion about something, but my overarching hope is to connect to the whole, not just the few that share my opinion, it drops me within the entire group rather than drawing attention to me or a few of them.
I can be a very caring and intelligent woman and not have to have an opinion about everything. This has really put me at ease, and it’s helped me to be a better listener. For some of you, you don’t care if you “reach” the whole, and your aim is to focus on one part. This I understand. I do not expect to either, but it is the driving force for me behind the things I am saying.
To whom are you talking? This personal reminder to yourself, whether you broadcast it or not, will certainly assist the language, direction and climate of the atmosphere or demographic you are hoping to magnetize or connect. I ask myself this question each day…”who are you trying to talk to?” before I enter into the public landscape. It has assisted me in treating everyone with far more human decency and respect.
For me, there is only one answer to this question and luckily, ever since I began teaching publicly, there always has been just one answer. It might not seem practical, but I am hoping to talk to their Soul: No one else and nothing else. Not their sexual preference, their age, their political position, gender identity, economical status, religion or cultural race. Luckily, the Soul includes all of these things since we are Souls having these human experiences.
Committed to knowing to whom you are talking to, you will be less persuaded, diminished, nervous, obligated, or feel like you are hustling, convincing or preaching to alter the message you feel it important to convey. For clear communication, you will need to embody this when in front of others. I don’t focus on what everyone else is thinking in that moment. I would be overwhelmed. I just let the fire hydrant out and pause to see if everyone is ok, has statements, other ideas, or questions.
When I picture speaking to the Soul of another, I am less worried by strange looks, the persuasion to be liked, cool, needed, understood, or the need to win others over, be popular or make it personal. If it is not well received by everyone, I am less bent out of shape as I’ve grown to understand through the years that it is not validation from all humans I am hoping for in all of this but depth and interconnection, which can take some courage, and time.
This approach, speaking Soul to Soul, has worked better for me throughout the years as I have traveled the world and witnessed so many different ways in which to live and be. Often not even speaking the same language at all, I’ve heard a common heart that is there, if we take the time to listen.
Establish A Connection:
I know I feel the most vulnerable and exposed of all when I speak in large group settings. What if I am judged? Not good enough? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I offend, am found to be wrong, or they make comments about me later on social media? What if I forget someone and hurt their feelings?
This fear list could go on and on. The antidote? I have heard the “picture your audience naked” approach. Interesting, (or maybe not!) but is that establishing connection? I say do the opposite. Make sure you can see everyone. Get on their level. Look them all in the eyes with warmth. Show them you are vulnerable, grounded, and the same.
You don’t have to be extraordinary nor prove anything if you are speaking Soul to Soul. Your embodiment is communicating everything that you are. There is no need to brag, talk about all of your credentials, or to, especially, talk over them. If you are walking your talk or are honest about where you still are challenged, that is more than enough.
Doing what you say in front of others is the key to the deepest of all connections. Your embodiment is your most obvious form of communication.
In your honesty, there is no need to unleash an over identified emotional state onto them. This means you will need to be grounded enough to talk about very vulnerable things without getting so off track you lose the crowd and their trust, especially if they don’t know you.
There is such a thing as TMI. You may feel it is appropriate to divulge, if the setting is right, some personal or sacred information with an audience who trusts and respects you. In moderate well roundedness, be the embodiment of all that you wish to convey as that is what they will end up remembering about you.
A Mini Speech Check List
- Moderate spark of emotion: Be it levity, conviction, triumph, or tears.
- Intelligence/Know your topic/Have an outline.
- Storytelling or personal experience.
- Simplify: Narrow down, have a point, and keep to the point.
My goal in the end is that I have looked at everyone, quite literally, at least once, deeply in the eye and, if I cannot, that my voice is being cast to the back corners of the room with whole hearted intentionality. This gets me out of feeling isolated on a podium or pulpit or above or below them in my discussion, away from talking at someone, not listening for what they need to hear.
Go back to Source, which is energizing: Take a deep breath, look everyone in the eye, and let the essence of the life force flow through you.
“See, I don’t know nothing about singing. I never wanted to be a frontman. Frontmen had big egos and was always crazy and aggravating. I just never thought that was a good idea.”–Dr. John
What Do You Mean?
Practices For Being An Open Channel
In honesty, I often do not know what I am going to say because I am doing my best to not try to regurgitate anything from anyone or robotically repeat words unless I am correctly citing someone, which I feel can add some leverage as long as your entire speech is not someone else’s. Since I am hoping to connect with efficacy and legitimacy while also remaining open to what is aligned to speak on, I must both study and be available to receive downloaded inspirations straight from the Divine.
While allowing for the spontaneity of the Divine to flow through me, I also feel it important to not speak about topics I really do not know about but instead hope to.
To do this, I need personal tools that will encourage an authentic grounded clarity in my execution, espousing actual experience from which to articulate. To open the gate of clear speech, your very body is the language you will inevitably convey if you are staying connected. There are literal ways to tone the voice and soothe the nervous system just as you would the body or mind. If you are depleted by unresolved worry, this will read as a lack of overall reception in your transmission, even if you mean well and have some pretty amazing things to say.
Before I offer a speech or any sacred sounds, be it a 5 minute talk or a 20 hour lecture training weekend, there are reliable practices that I have done for years with the hope of being an open channel and blooming an impactful discourse. Nervousness, my personal needs to heal, an opportunity for my own energy release, dumping, or spewing as a means to win over an audience with my agenda, past experiences or opinions are not my objective. The purpose of my personal practices is to work with my processing needs. My public speaking is not for that purpose. I am there for those that came. My intention is that they arrive into themselves through the modality of the Word, not me. This brings far more flow to the words streaming through me.
Speaking to a being that transcends time, identity, and opinion even if they have these things is the mark I am shooting for. This won’t mean everyone is available for that message. Whoever holds the same opinion, identity or emotional frequency as you will cheer you on, but that might change. I work more than ever on not needing validation. I have not always hit the mark but it’s helped me to speak more sincerely.
The Soul’s message is patient. I trust seeds are always planted if the truth was delivered, and they will eventually be recovered in their memory bank of collective consciousness. Speaking to others as though they already know the indispensable wisdom within them while bypassing their stress, tiredness, belief systems, their offense or defense helps me to have follow-through in my conviction.
“We all, if we go with ego or I go with ego thing, it’s got to be free of all of that and just roll, because music is a spiritual thing. It’s got to come through us and can’t just hit us. It’s got to be part of us and goes to the people, and then they come back to us and give us more spirit.” — Dr. John
Speech Empowerment Toolbox
Small Daily Practices Before Public Speaking
“Prayer is the key to the morning and the bolt in the evening.” -Mahatma Gandhi
More than anything, I pray a LOT before I offer a speech to others. I feel this is more important than any research or studying I can do. I need to know what I am talking about to be effective and so, of course, I do that too, but prayer is the priority. Prayer points me in the direction. It tells me what not to say. In prayer, I am sending an announcement to the Divine that I am hoping that the Truth speaks through me.
Each morning before a speech I hope to:
- Pause, Meditate right away in the morning, even for 5 minutes.
- Pray and ask for what needs to be said beyond what I think I should be said beyond what I think should be said.
- Assess my own emotional state: Since negativity is exhausting and unclear, is positivity accessible for me today?
- Read 5 minutes of any uplifting dharma or sacred words each morning to set a theme for the day, also gathering inspiration.
- Sing: Freeing and activating my voice, the vagus nerves, and vocal cords so that I am less cerebral, overly emotional, or over activate in the mind.
- Breathing exercises that begin in the lower diaphragm so I am grounded and not overly stimulated.
- A grounding asana sequence, neither too fast or too slow, to move energy into balance and vibrancy, so I am not anxious or dull.
- Go outside and let the sun or fresh elements refresh you, barefoot if possible, as to connect with the electromagnetics of the earth.
- Read less emails and engage in less chit chat: No gossiping, complaining, comparing what others say or degrading speech to others before a public speech.
- Review my title, which is my main topic, and my outline with the key bullet points and where that plays out in real time so that I am at ease knowing I have direction.
- Let go of the intricate details altogether afterward and enjoy part of my morning so that I am in a magnetically good and inspiring mood. If Source is assisting me to speak, it will be delivered with eloquence and was is needed to be said will be.
- Leave all of my personal worries at the door. It’s not about me now. I can deal with them later. This communion of sacred word is coming from above.
One of the greatest fears proclaimed by the majority of all humans, above and beyond death, is the fear of public speaking. This means most would rather die than talk in front of others in a large group. Think about this! Are we acclimated to negativity, gossip or filler talk and afraid of being denied or group shamed? We have become disempowered in our right to speak and to manifest our creations, so much so that now we contract, repress and suppress, no longer feeling worthy of having anything valuable to say altogether.
It is our birthright to first imagine our creation and then align clearly to produce our unique purpose, through sound, vocalization and resonance, saying what we mean and meaning what we say.
Shutting Up, Shutting Down, Or Listening
Deeper Practices For Opening The Voice and Ears:
If I have ever been told to “shut up,” inappropriately censored, or believed I would lose my reputation or dignity by speaking my truth, I have often at some point shut down. If my voice has been mocked or put down by others, or someone talks about me, I feel it. Gossip is degrading.
One component to listening is to proactively let go of any static or discordant sounds such as Fox news or gossip since you will more than likely be bombarded with it by the mere act of living. We don’t have to always engage nor comment on everything. It doesn’t mean we don’t care or aren’t thinking. We might just be simply listening. Listen for what infests your clear communication.
I have worked personally with quite a few Sound Therapists and Energy Medicine Practitioners that have revealed deep tools for activating more sound speech. There are Chakra clearing techniques that I have learned in Pranic Healing and Reiki as well as Mantra’s specifically for the voice and throat, especially the Sargam scale. There are Restorative Yoga Therapy practices that work directly with the throat, neck, jaw, occipital and ears. Thymus tapping is incredible for releasing oxytocin, a social bonding hormone and for releasing the sympathetic nervous system, which might be in fight or flight mode, along with EFT (Emotional Freedom Tapping) or “Body Talk” Therapy for tapping the entire body. I have worked with all of these forms of holistic therapy with incredible results. Ironically, most of these practices require a tremendous amount of listening first more than speaking.
Listening means softening, inquiring, or asking; it is the key to opening our voice. In honesty, words are encased and are still limited. Words will not necessarily move the energy into total resolve.
“In the beginning was the word.” – John 1:1
We were created through words and through sounds. We end this life by listening. It is the last sensory organ to release. Listening is the culmination of all of the senses and the way back to the Divine.
There are loving tricks I have learned along the way to also encourage a climate of listening. To begin with, write down what you might want to say and then actually read it out loud to hear yourself say it. Most all of my content changes the moment I hear it and listen to it.
“If it is true that you are what you eat, it can also be said that you are what you listen to.” -Anodea Judith, Eastern Body Western Mind
Your Daily Speech
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” -Proverbs 12:18
It seems to make sense to me that if you are not able to speak with respect and clarity to a diverse array of others on a daily basis, while also listening to them and honoring their time and ideas, it may be difficult for you to speak up in front of larger groups of others. In our modern world, we are not listening to one another or looking one another in the eyes often when we talk. We are multi-tasking or anticipating a conversation with facts from the Internet, ready for our comeback.
“If your presence doesn’t work, neither will your word.”–Yogi Bhajan
Speak kindly to the waiter, to the grocery store clerk, to your children, to your parents, neighbor, peers, loved ones and friends. Belittling those whose values and morals you do not agree with, constantly judging them, purposefully diminishing or separating yourself from them means they will never listen to you.
There are some impeccable resounding words of advise I have gathered through the years as check points when I hear my lips getting loose. We are human. It will probably happen. I am hoping to be effective, not chime to just those that already agree with me.
The 4 Gates of Speech
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it in the right place and time?
You will, of course, have to do more than just say the above. You will need to practice being it. Your body is your instrument. Your very embodiment is the message you are sending when you get up in front of others.
Freedom Of Speech:
Established in 1949, called The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Freedom Of Speech act is under article 19 and reads:
“everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.“
Later, an amendment was added to state that freedom of speech requires: “special duties and responsibilities.”
These restrictions were then listed as:
“libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, food labeling, non-disclosure agreements, the right to privacy, the right to be forgotten, public security, and perjury.”
It also included a “harm principle” where information could be restricted or rightfully exercised, to prevent harm.
In the treaties of Freedom of Expression, it is stated it was not meant as a license to just say whatever we want whenever we want without concern or regard to the outcome it might have. Nor does it mean we have the right to shut some one up for those exact same human rights’ principles. The power of word is just that: Powerful.
Clear communication is also non-violent communication. It is the advocacy of non-harming, no longer using speech as a form of weaponry nor for shutting someone down or up.
The truth will always set us free in the right time and right place. It’s up to you to listen for that right time and place as a public speaker.
So much about giving a pubic speech is your presence and honesty, but you will absolutely need to know what you are talking about to be taken seriously. Assume that a few academics and critics, or experts in their field are in the room ready to question you or doubt you, and then let
them go. Go for the deepest nuggets of wisdom as your main objective. Talk directly from the Source: That is clear speech.