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Why speaking from the heart is a recipe for disaster

Many public speakers say that speaking from the heart and not preparing for presentations is the best way to be authentic, but it is actually a recipe for disaster – and science agrees.



speaking from the heart

speaking from the heart

Speaking from the heart: a recipe for disaster

“I do best when I get up on stage and just speak from the heart,” said former athlete turned public speaker, Sammy Superstar, just this week after I was referenced to him specifically because of how bad he is at public speaking. Oh, the irony. It’s a good thing he didn’t adopt this approach to his sports career.

Rather than try to convince him, I simply wished him the best and made a note to inform my speaking industry peers about another famous person to never recommend for a speaking engagement.

Sammy Superstar is not alone. The myth that ‘preparation hinders authentic presentations’ is alive and well in our culture. It’s befuddling to me. Is there any other activity that people could claim that practice hinders performance? No? Then why would anyone think it’s true for speaking?

Here’s the actual truth: this idea is just an excuse for laziness. It reduces your impact, and it tells the audience that they weren’t worth your best.

Three attributes of a presentation you must prepare

Here are the three unique attributes of a presentation that ensure you are always better off prepared:

  1. The Numbers – A speech is a unique situation. How many times in life do you have the undivided attention of a large number of people? A speech is an opportunity to persuade, to be a catalyst for change, to move people. In fact, there is no other reason for a speech. When people gather to hear what you have to say, why would you not want to make sure you gave them the information that would most profoundly help them?

    And how can anyone possibly claim that additional time spent thinking about a speech wouldn’t improve the quality? You’ve got a captive audience. Imagine how much time it would take to deliver your message to each of them individually. Use that time to prepare for the one time you have them all together.

  2. A One-Way Street – In a conversation, we are constantly giving and receiving information while we talk and while we listen. We adjust our dialogue based on this feedback. If we are bored, we can change the subject. If we are confused, we can ask questions. Feedback goes out the window in a speech. Sure, great speakers can read audiences, but this is far easier said than done and typically involves a limited sampling rather than overall sentiment.

    The solution to the feedback problem is to structure your speech in a manner that keeps the audience engaged and allows for easy retention. Speech structure does not come ‘from the heart.’ What comes from the heart is passion. Don’t get me wrong. We want passion, but passion without structure leads to rambling and audience boredom. I hereby give you permission to be passionate about your message while preparing. Passion is not limited to the moments you stand in front of a crowd.

  3. The Amygdala Hijack – While it’s actually a myth that public speaking is the number one fear, public speaking does cause significant anxiety (for everyone… even those of you who claim it doesn’t). When we speak, audiences are deciphering messages through two channels- the words we use and the body language we display. Great speakers communicate the same message across both channels.

    When we don’t practice and prepare, most of us use our non-verbal communication channel to tell the audience all about the anxiety we are feeling. The body reacts biologically to this ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ situation by what legendary emotional intelligence researcher Daniel Goleman calls the ‘Amygdala Hijack.’ The bio-chemical chain reaction changes us in a number of ways. Of particular importance to the speaker, it reduces blood flow in the brain. This limits our critical thinking and communication skills. All this to say, ill preparation merged with anxiety does not enhance your likelihood to give a good speech.

How to keep the passion in your speeches

Wanting to authentically communicate from the heart is a good goal. It just doesn’t come through the method that most people believe it does.

A great actor will practice over and over again to create an honest portrayal of the character they play. If you are preparing to speak in front of an audience, the best method to ensure they receive your most authentic self is to prepare in such a way that you remove the consequences of an ‘amygdala hijack.’

As my longtime mentor Bryan Flanagan often reminds me, “Preparation makes up for a lack of talent.” I’m sure you are talented, but you are not talented enough to successfully wing a presentation.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

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  1. Ken Brand

    May 6, 2013 at 11:47 am

    True. There is no substitute for a winning personality and perfect practice. #MoreAhHa

  2. halffiction

    May 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Agreed – though I once gave a presentation in front of a large group and wrote a word-for-word speech. I borrowed an iPad and installed a teleprompter program in it. When I went on stage, I realized there was no way for me to follow the teleprompter and advance my slides in Keynote, so I just winged it. In reality I wrote the whole speech off the top of my head, there was no reason for me to speak that way as well. So I’d call my approach somewhat of a hybrid but they key to success here is knowing your material well enough. Overall, great article!

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Business News

Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.



keeping operations lean

The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.



board of directors

What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.



startup founders average age is 45

There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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