My client has just landed an opportunity to present at a large conference in her field. She is ecstatic that she was chosen, but confides to me that presenting at this level is new for her. She wants to do everything she can to make a great impression.
We spend some of our session clarifying what she believes the characteristics of a successful speaker are and what concerns she has about her own abilities.
“How clear are you about who you want to be when you are in front of the room?” I ask my client.
“Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought. I think I have a pretty good sense of what I want,” she answers.
“Fantastic!” I say. “I’ll write what you say. What’s the first thing you know is important?”
When I named our company Express Yourself Write, I wondered if the name would convey the breadth of the work we did. Yes, many of our clients were working on goals to improve their actual writing skills. Yet, an equal number of clients chose to engage because of goals that involved spoken communication. Many of our clients were choosing to work with us because they wanted to communicate in a way that would have the greatest impact on those with whom they were speaking. In some way, all of the coaching, training, and information we provided focused on people finding their voice and using it well.
Through working with the many clients who were not focused on writing goals, per se, I discovered that the name I had chosen for our business was, indeed, aligned and indicative of our work. For most of our clients, writing things down was one of the most valuable steps people took toward being able to express themselves with authenticity and confidence.
People understand the value of writing in terms of preparing content. We write our speeches before we deliver them. We create scripts to guide us through collaborative trainings and performances. Even when we prepare to speak extemporaneously, we make a list of the points we want to be sure to include. Writing is often the step we rely on to organize our thoughts into a form we can express.
Yet writing can be just as valuable for the less tangible aspects of preparatory work. What do we want to experience as we are presenting? What aspects of our personality do we most want to convey when we engage in a networking event or new dating situation? What intention would we like to set for how we will navigate an interaction we perceive as stressful? Using writing as a means to explore these types of questions can be just as significant as writing out the points of a speech.
Not everyone loves writing, and not everyone writes things down in the same way. Sometimes I serve as the note-taker for clients who need to talk through their ideas without feeling constrained by the physical act of writing. These clients benefit from having their words available to them in a form that can then be edited, modified, or added to at a later time. I have seen clients, as they hold their own words in their hands, plunge into a different level of awareness about what is true for them or what no longer aligns with how they want to express themselves. It is a powerful process. Simply put, writing allows us to get comfortable hearing our own voice–a critical step in increasing our confidence as we prepare to speak with others.
“Funny,” my client answers. “I want to be funny. Not joke-telling funny, but the organically humorous person I know I can be once I’ve gotten to know someone. In the past, I’ve taken myself too seriously and taken too long to warm up when I’ve spoken to groups.”
“Okay, I have ‘funny’ down as number one. What’s another thing that is really important to you?” I ask my client.
When she is done, I read back to my client the list she has created. By the end of the session, my client not only has a list in hand, but has also committed to the action steps she will take to bring the vision she has into a reality.