Find Your Voice

Speakers’ speaker, John Childers, talks about the three ways we represent ourselves when we speak publicly. The first way, he says, is to present ourselves as the Expert. This usually means we’ve been in our field for a while and we have amassed a body of knowledge and experience from which to speak and teach. This is the role most people think of when they think about a public speaker.

When I first considered public speaking as a profession, I immediately discounted myself on the thought I was not an expert at speaking about God or spiritual matters. I had 16 years of web design and online marketing experience and if you had asked me to teach a full day seminar on that subject, I could have gotten up, formulated the curriculum and delivered a workshop right there on the spot. After 16 years in that industry, I could speak easily about web design, content management systems, search engine marketing, and optimization. But to hold a 20-minute lecture on God and matters of the spirit? I didn’t feel terribly well-equipped, even though I was fairly comfortable in my relationship with God.

Fortunately, “Expert” is only one of the three roles John discusses.

The next way is to present yourself and your message through the Reporter. The Reporter–just as it sounds–studies other sources of information and inspiration and reports out on them. I am speaking to you now primarily through the Reporter role. Upon studying John Childers’ material, something resonated with me and now I am bringing that material to you in the hope it will help you in your own life. It is my desire you will be able to connect with what I’m saying and use it to find your own voice (if you’re in the process of discovering it, as I imagine I will always be.)

By being a Reporter, you shine the light on someone else’s work, giving credit where credit is due while bringing a deeper level of substance and credibility to your own message (providing you’ve chosen your source well.) Additionally, you remove some of the burdens of having to “know it all” and you share that mantle with your sources. Don’t feel like you’re an expert on something? Share the spotlight with someone you feel has something expert to say and bring that value to your audience.

The third role in speaking is that of the Student. When you speak as a Student, you place yourself at the same level as everyone else around you. You share your experience and your ideas, but you do so in a very open, humble way. This role is less used to lead your listeners to a particular conclusion or insight, and more to share, intimate and normalize. When you approach as a Student, you say to your audience, “Hey, I’m making my way, just like you. Here is what I’ve seen.” I feel the Student role is, by far, the most intimate of the roles we take on.

So, there we have it; three roles: Expert, Reporter, and Student.

When you speak, do you pick one role and stay in it? No, not usually. You’ll find most people will move very fluidly from one to the next. We use these roles without thinking, and we do it whether we’re before an audience or having a one-on-one conversation.

When I first learned about these different ways to present our ideas to others, I was relieved. I found it was easier for me to get started presenting spiritual material through the Student role. This allowed me to remove myself from the pressure of the Expert’s spotlight and humbly approach my audience as one of them. I still try to bring that humility to my audience when I talk, as I 1.) am quite aware I don’t know it all, and 2.) I feel the speaker-audience relationship is a sacred thing. You have sought me out or allowed me into your experience for however much time we have together and for that, I am always honored. I love my audiences and I see them as a reflection of myself and I, a mirror back to them. I believe we would not be here, together, if it were not a part of the Divine Plan.

One final thought: I think it’s possible to whittle this list of three roles down into one. It feels like it may be possible–even preferable–to dissolve the Expert and Reporter roles into the Student. After all, if we approach our audience with humility and an earnest intent to serve by bringing value and insight, I believe the natural result of that research, self-analysis, and preparation will organically lend to the easy expression of the Expert and Reporter roles. For me, that originates from working and speaking from the Student.