The following is the full transcript of the The Surprising Secret to Speaking With Confidence by Caroline Goyder at TEDxBrixton…
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Caroline Goyder – Author of Gravitas
It is this moment, isn’t it? I’m looking at you, and you look like a really nice bunch with such great energy. I was sitting there for five minutes and it just feels great in this room.
And you look really friendly enough, so thank you! And you are looking a bit unsure, a voice coach. Don’t worry, it’s going to be fine. And I can see a couple of really brainy TED faces there. There’s going to be few ideas too.
But it is this moment — this moment where our worlds are colliding right now. You are looking at me. I am looking at you, and it hits my brain with the feeling of adrenaline. Accelerating molecules you might say. And different people deal with this moment differently. Some of us go: Hey! You know, there are people who are confident. They cope with this moment totally fine. And then there are other people, not so confident, and it stops them from speaking this moment. It makes them feel anxious. It makes them feel that maybe they are not up to it. And that is not the case. Actually all of us have confidence within.
And what I want to talk about today is the idea that we can find more confidence within us if we know where to look. Where do we look? We go within. We look under the bonnet. That’s where we are going next, and the reason I want to talk about this is because many years ago, I stood in front of an audience this big, bigger at Central Hall, which is by the Houses of Parliament, a really big Methodist space. I was super excited about that moment, because I knew that it was my big moment as a rookie voice coach and that I was going to be able to speak.
And I stepped up in front of that audience and what happened was everything that could possibly go wrong did. I went too fast, I lost my words. It felt like such a horrible experience. And just as I thought it couldn’t go any worse, the microphone broke. And I looked out across the room and I said in my big voice — coach voice — there wasn’t this much wind at the time I have to say – and I said in my big voice coach voice: “Can you hear me at the back?”
And someone said, “Speak up!”
And I just felt this feeling of absolute shame, that feeling of an audience looking at you, that feeling of judgment which cripples us. And I left that venue and I thought to myself, “Never again”. Clearly that didn’t work because I am here. I also thought I am going to do it differently next time. I am going to make sure that the next time I stand up to speak it feels good. And where I had to go was within.
Now we live in a really visual culture. We spend a lot of time — if we think about two worlds, we spend a lot of time thinking about the outside, maybe especially for women. And actually confidence doesn’t exist on the outside; it exists within, in the visceral stuff, in the bits within you that we don’t see. And we’re going to go to those bits.
And when I was thinking about this idea three months ago, when I was asked to do it, I started to feel nervous about this moment, I started to think about a quote that the director Peter Brook had said, which is that we open new drawers in the self. And I started to think about a chest of drawers. And then I came across this really cool maker called George McCollum, who is sitting there.
And I said to George, “Can you make me a chest of drawers? And he did.
Now you might be wondering what this object is. And what this object is here, is what George made. But when you ask a maker to make a chest of drawers, they don’t always do what you think they are going to do. Do you want to see what he did? Yeah! Thanks George. Best response of the morning. Upstage by the furniture.
And within this little chest of drawers — this rather big, manly chest of drawers — are three secrets to finding confidence within. Three lessons that I had to learn on the way. That is a big lesson in here. The last lesson is the big one. We are going to get there, and it’s not what you might think. It is a lesson that might surprise you.
But first, would you like to see inside the first drawer? It’s a bit delicate, George. So what we have in here is an instrument. Because you’ve just been hearing the voice is the most amazing instrument. It’s magnificent. How often do you think about how yours work? Because like this little guitar, it has a string and it has a hitter. Where is the string of your voice? You can handle it. Here give it a shake, your larynx. ahhhhh… can everyone do that for meeee? Ahhhhh… and then the hitter is the air.
Now when you know that your voice is an instrument, what does that tell you? People come to me and they say, “Well I’ve got a bad voice.” “I am not a good speaker.” “I get worried about this kind of moment.” “I hate meetings.” “I hate presentations” “Can’t do it.” The voice is an instrument. There is no such thing as a bad saxophone. Is there? Because when we hear a great saxophonist, and he is probably somewhere down here, what we know is that they practice a lot. That not only they have talent, but also they have worked, and worked and worked to get a great sound.
Now, if you ever doubt the sound of you voice, let me tell you all you have to do is practice. And when I was worrying about that moment I am going to call my Central Hall of shame because it was, what I remembered was the story of a guy in Ancient Greece called Demosthenes. Now, that’s a bit of a big old name, so we’re going to call him the Greek dude from now on, which actually is also a bit of a big word, so we might just call him Dave, I think.
Now Dave was speaking at the Assembly which is like the O2. We have Simon in the room. It’s like the Brixton Academy of the Ancient Greek world. And he was feeling pretty nervous, he wanted to be an orator. Orators were the rock stars of their day. And so he geared himself up for this big moment at the assembly and you know what? He bombed. They said he was uncouth in his speaking, and that he stammered.
And so the audience jeered at him and they threw stuff. Please don’t do that to me! And he left that stage feeling so downcast when he got a bit of advice from an actor. I’m sure Greek actors were pretty much the same as they are now. And I am sure that acting was a bit like this, but what he said to him is, “You need more expression in your voice. You’re just not giving enough welly, enough energy. And you also need to believe in yourself because the message is good.”
So Demosthenes takes himself back home and he goes for it. This is his rocky moment. He builds himself an underground cellar. He shaves his head, half of his head so that he can’t leave the house for three months and then he practices for three months solid in front of a big shield that is polished like a mirror.
And when he is ready, when he is up there, he goes out. He goes to the sea and he speaks over the waves. So his voice has to boom out over the waves. And then he goes back. He goes back to the Assembly. And he speaks again and he becomes known as one of the greatest orators of his day. So what does that tell you? It tells you about practice. The power of practice.