Public speaking lessons from a 6-year-old - JOHANNA WALKER

Public speaking lessons from a 6-year-old

Public speaking lessons from a 6-year-old

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the privilege of supporting my 6-year-old friend Raya in LEARNING HOW TO RIDE A BIKE! 

We’ve been pals for a while, so we trust each other. When we hang out, we laugh a lot and we have fun. We teach each other new things all the time. 

Raya’s been working on this for a little while. 

Her bike doesn’t have training wheels, so she needs grown-up support to make it happen. She sits up on her bike, rolls along, looks around at the scenery.

Sometimes she forgets to pay attention to steering the ship because the scenery is so awesome.

When she gets scared, she stops pedaling. Here we are: 

 A month or so ago she was riding down a hill with her mom supporting her, and she fell, cracked her lip, lots of blood, a big story. 

She was very excited to tell me about it, and the next couple of times we went to the park, we got to the hill and she got off her bike to walk down the hill. 

Last week when we practiced, we got to the hill and she started to get off her bike, so I said “Why don’t we ride down this time? I’ll hold you really carefully.”

“Promise I won’t fall?”

“Well I can’t promise you won’t fall, but I’m pretty sure you won’t fall. I can promise I’ll be there to scoop you up and give you a big hug if you do fall.” 

She was cool with that, but even just the idea of riding down the hill made her scream. 

So when she screamed I said

“Yeah! Like that! Scream all the way down.
I’ll scream with you.”

Then I made weird super scared screamy sounds as we started down, which cracked Raya up, so I screamed all the way down the hill and she scream-laughed all the way down, and then we started scream-laughing every time we got scared.

At the bottom of the hill, I let go, and she balanced on her bike for a few seconds, which really freaked her out, so she scream-laughed some more. 

As we rolled down the hill I urged her along “Keep pedaling, look where you’re going, and SCREAM!”

That became our mantra. “Keep pedaling. Look where you’re going. And SCREAM!” 

That and “I got this.” 

She’s doing great. And we’re having a blast. 

The reason I’m telling YOU this is because if you’re out there on the speaking journey, learning to ride that bike, Raya and I have a few words of wisdom to share:

1. KEEP PEDALING! 

When I told Raya to keep pedaling, she asked “Why?”

I said, “Because it helps your body find the balance.” It’s way harder to balance on your bike when you’re standing still. The pedaling helps your whole body figure out how to balance the bike. Coasting is a fine thing once you’ve got the balance and momentum, but if you try coasting before you’re balancing? 

Bonk. 

When you’re on the path to speaking, it’s way easy to get stuck trying to come up with a perfect talk title, or thinking you’re story’s not ready yet, or being not exactly 100% sure who your audience is, or believing your fear, or wondering where in the world you can speak while you sit on the couch eating bonbons. 

That’s not gonna get you very far. 

Just. Keep. Pedaling. 

I tell all my clients to put a stake in the ground and keep moving forward.

Come up with a title. Change it later if you need to. Make that speakers hit list of places you want to speak, even if you don’t know if it’s a great fit. If your self-doubt demons are keeping you from even writing the talk, take a breath and write a shitty first draft. 

Just. Keep. Pedaling. 

Pedaling will help your body find balance. It helps your body figure out just how this whole thing works. 

 

2. LOOK WHERE YOU’RE GOING

You gotta keep your eyes open. I tell Raya, “If you look where you’re going, your body and your bike will figure out how to get there.”

You don’t have to understand how it works. Just trust that if you look where you’re going, you’ll get there. If you look at the bumps and at how steep the hill is, that’s all that you’ll see and they will seem way larger than they are. 

So that means get clear about where you’re headed.

Why do you want to speak in the first place? Whose lives will you change by sharing your message? How will it feel to stand in your power and claim the power of your voice? How will your business grow once you take the stage? What doors will open when you claim your place as a thought leader? 

Keep your eye on THAT, not the obstacles. Not the indecision or the bumpy road or the hill that makes you feel like you might fall. 

Just keep your eyes on where you’re going.

Which brings me to

3. DON’T DO IT ALONE

Because having someone steady the bike while you get on it, and support you on the way while you find your balance, makes all the difference.

And when you do fall, having someone there to scoop you up and hug you while you cry makes falling seem not so bad after all. 

And finally…

 

4. SCREAM! 

This is the best part!

Going downhill when you’re not sure how to balance is scary as all get out. So let yourself scream while you do it. It might even make you start laughing. In fact, I suggest screaming until you do laugh.   

Seriously. Promise. It will make a difference. 

I’m not talking about metaphorical screams here. I’m talking actual voice and breath and sound screams. 

That will connect you to all the powers of your voice. It will connect you to your body. It will connect you to your power. It will make you laugh. It will open new doors of expression. It will make your speaking way better…

and it will get you down that hill. (or up, as the case may be) 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

At one point in one of our recent practice times Raya said “oooh I know I’m gonna fall this time.”

And I said “Let’s swap that out for ‘I know how to ride this bike. I got this.” 

Which she eagerly did. With a scream. 

So keep pedaling.

Look where you’re going.

Don’t do it alone…

and SCREAM!

Then come home and tell a story about it. 

Here’s to lots of big hills and screaming your way down!

 

Public speaking lessons from a 6-year-old

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