I’m an ok speaker. I’ve given some very good speeches, but have had more bad ones. Speaking is a skill that most of us have to practice. I’m much better when I know the group and they work for me :).
This morning I met with a friend, Tony Crocamo to talk about my plans to finally finish a book and maybe give some seminars. Getting the book done is important for a number of reasons; the first is that I want to help startups, and the second is that completion matters to me.
Seminars I’m less interested in, except that they might help some struggling startups living outside of the major tech centers.
I get asked to speak from time to time to different groups–civic, startup, business–and for each I find it much more interesting to treat it as an interactive seminar than a speech.
This accomplishes a few things. First, it takes the pressure off me to fill a half hour or hour with stuff to talk about. I can do that, but it’s hard and I’m the kind of guy who gets anxious when I see I’m losing people, and that sometimes throws me off.
Next, it turns the audience into participants. But I don’t ask them to do things as individuals in a group responding directly to me, I ask them to confer with one another. They move from participants to partners.
And that’s where the good stuff happens. Relationships develop. They trade problems. Swap insights. Share pain. Share successes. Develop understanding.
Then I bring the group back together, which is now a gathering of new friends and partners, and ask some to share their stories and insights.
And me, well I’ve been moving around the room, listening, occasionally guiding, and generally getting a sense for the topics and mood.
And of course I look much more competent as a speaker than I really am, because I’m not really speaking, I’m moderating.
But I think the outcome is a lot better as a result. I’d rather leave a room full of new relationships between people who have learned from each other than leave a room full of audience members who may or may not have been entertained or educated by my lengthy speech.
Community–a network of people working together–is more valuable than a simple conveyance of information to people who have no interaction with each other.
I’m still learning the art of convening, moderating, and yes, speaking, but I prefer convening and moderating–it’s much more fulfilling.