Ballet dancers seem to float, to soar, to magically propel themselves. The grace and fluidity of their movement captures our imaginations and tells us a riveting story.
We leave the theatre in awe of their talent, their gift. We’re not necessarily thinking about how hard they worked to create that two-hour experience for us, the time and dedicated work they put in to be able to execute each movement perfectly.
The dancers onstage have logged innumerable hours in dance class, in rehearsal, in dance summer camps. They built and stretched their muscles, they developed pre-show routines, and they refined their technique.
They do this work so that when we watch, we can be transported. We don’t need to think about what they did to get there—we’re just enjoying what we’re seeing.
When I’m coaching a speaker, we put in our hard work on behalf of the audience, just like the dancer. We log the hours of focused practice to bring the message as close as possible to those who are listening. We do this work in order to create a meaningful and memorable experience for the audience.
I’m bringing this up for two reasons. The first is that it is truly wonderful to get the compliment that a speaker I coached “is such a natural” or “was born to be onstage.” This tells me that the work we did paid off—we made it seem effortless.
But the bigger reason is to point out that any speaker can do this work. When we allow ourselves the luxury of saying “she’s a natural,” we’re also saying: “I could never do that.” That is probably true for the remarkable dancers we see onstage, who started training in their youth, but it’s not true of public speaking.
Any speaker can start practicing early and often, can get coaching, can align their content and delivery, and can dial in their presentation so it serves the audience rather than the speaker.
It is hard work. But hard work is within everyone’s grasp.