Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When giving speeches, just wing it?

On February 18th Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com had an article in the Huffington Post about how he now gives speeches. He started out by memorizing, and then switched to just “winging it.” His recipe for delivery without rehearsal might be a disaster for most of us. 

Nick Morgan has blogged about how:

“In fact, what happens when you wing it, or you don’t rehearse, is that your body language signals to the audience, “Hey, folks, I’m doing this for the first time!”  It's unconscious, but the audience picks it up subliminally right away.  Now, some people are terrified when they’re doing something for the first time, and some people are merely excited, but everyone is at least a little uncertain.”

While you might think you look like a soaring bird, you actually may appear more like the awkward gentlemen shown above. 

Similarly, Olivia Mitchell has discussed how:

“Sometimes you may come across an experienced speaker who appears to be winging it and produces a brilliant result. Before you assume that winging it is a winning strategy realise that they may have given a similar speech hundreds of times before.”

If you haven’t given a speech hundreds of times, then your attempt to wing it may result in losing your feathers and falling out of the sky like the Greek myth of Icarus.

Both Nick and Olivia’s posts talk about how to rehearse. Once you have done so you may decide to deliver your speech in one of four ways:

1. Wing it
2. Speak from notes
3. Read a script
4. Memorize everything

I’m not sure why Tony Hsieh chose to jump from #4 to #1. I think his advice at best just is another half truth.

The soaring fulmar came from Des Colhoun.


On March 24th Nick Morgan blogged about Tony Hsieh’s article. He said:

“But hang on a minute.  Tony’s not winging it.  Winging it is making it up as you go along.  But Tony already has a pretty good idea of what he’s going to say.  He’s going to choose from a finite list of stories he’s told many times, and about which he’s passionate. 

That’s not winging it, that’s giving a modular speech, a speech constructed out of familiar chunks that you’ve done many times before.”

In other words, Tony wasn’t  just playing a new, random set of cards. He’d stacked the deck with royal hearts and diamonds.

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