The Tiniest Key To Great Public Speaking

Extemporaneous means ‘speaking out of time.’ Literally, outside of tempo, calling things from outside of the moment, and speaking to them in a coherent, relevant manner. Being able to step away from the teleprompter and speak to the moment with studied data and insights – especially in times of stress – are essential keys to leadership communications, whether on the big stage or the small one.

So, who is your best friend in this mission? You might be surprised to hear that it’s the hippocampus.

Wait. Hippo-what?

The hippocampus is a tiny seahorse-shaped section of the brain, located in the temporal lobe, that has a key role in calling up short-term memories and encoding long-term memories. It’s less of a storage system than a filing system, connecting memories and ideas from across recent and distant time into coherent narratives and aligning with message, moment and audience.

This little guy can get damaged and shrink because of many things – stress, age and Alzheimer’s certainly take a toll – but so do lack of sleep and lack of mental practice. One key thing you can do to keep that seahorse healthy is to learn new tasks – allow yourself to be a beginner again – and one of those things is to tell new stories.

So stop telling that same story! You know, the one where you know how your audience will respond, just at that moment, the laugh, the groan, the smile. It’s okay – you can come back to that version. Diversify your anecdotes and develop a good list of fresh experiences that you can draw on and shape to deliver meaning.

So tell it from the middle. Tell it from the end. Find a new start, a new key scene that you reveal. Shake up that first sentence….build a new metaphor, a different metaphor, or a new transition. Add a new data point.

Because beware, in time, if you stick to the same script and retell the same stories, your seahorse can get rusty.

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