September 17th, 2018
I often say creativity is not just reserved for artists. It’s a birthright. Simply by being alive and human we are creative beings.
Some people hone it more than others. Some people’s creativity gets squashed, but we’ve all got access to it all the time.
That’s what I talked about with Melissa Dinwiddie on her Creative Sandbox Podcast. We had a great conversation about how creative play can help us access more power in our voices.
Have a listen!
“I was pretty good at figuring out what the right answer was, so I would deliver the right answer or if I wasn’t 100% sure I had the right answer, I stayed quiet.” – Johanna Walker
“Connecting to my body through dance was a huge way of connecting to my voice and my power.” – Johanna Walker
“You can’t be in fear and be in that play state at the same time.” -Melissa Dinwiddie
“When we’re in that play state, we get our full, authentic selves to show up.” – Melissa Dinwiddie
“Play is bigger than fear. Play is stronger, it is more powerful than fear. Play is mightier.” – Johanna Walker
“Fear is energy. It’s a story we have in our head, but when we can let go of the story, drop into our breath, and our body, and our voice, then the fear is no longer a story it’s just energy and we can play with it.” – Johanna Walker
“We think that they [our stories] don’t matter, or it’s just about me, or it’s too weird, or it’s too dark, or it’s too personal, or there’s some reason not to tell it, but when you can really get that it’s not about me, it’s a gift, then it’s just like here we go.” – Johanna Walker
“The more clear the limitation is [on my creativity] the more room is for me to push up against the edges and feel my fullness and push the edges out a little.” – Johanna Walker
September 17th, 2018
Do you know the power of your own story?
That’s what I talked about last week with Kelly Covert, the host of the podcast In Her Voice.
In the interview, we chat about:
You can listen to the interview by using the player below, finding it on your favorite podcast app, or by clicking this link.
August 14th, 2018
August 14th, 2018
I was recently asked by a potential client “Will you be able to get me to the point of becoming a sought-after speaker?”
Part of me wanted to jump and say “Absolutely! Work with me and I promise you’ll become a sought-after speaker! I can show you the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! All your dreams will come true if you work with me! I have all the answers to all your questions! Your life will never be the same!”
But of course I didn’t. That’s not my jam. I’m more inclined to say there’s a chance you won’t become a sought after speaker.
Building a speaking business is HARD WORK. It takes determination. It takes a ton of resilience and get-up-off-the-floor-and-do-the-next-thing Commitment with a capital C.
It’s no walk in the park, and there are no guarantees.
Since that conversation I’ve been thinking about what it takes to become a sought-after speaker.
Here’s what I came up with. Four things:
Let me say a few words about each of these:
Yep. It all starts here. You gotta have top notch, content-rich, story-laden, audience-serving, out-of-the-box, well-crafted, from-the-heart (the hyphenated words are really workin for me here…)
Basically, you gotta have a great talk.
A talk that moves audiences to action, comes from your expertise and heart, takes your audience on a clear path from here to there, leads them to walk out of the room changed, so much so that they TALK ABOUT YOU.
You gotta have a talk that is fun for you to deliver, that keeps you on your toes. A talk you know in your bones, that awakens something in you, something that brings new life into the room when you speak about it.
A talk that conveys the heart of your message, and touches the heart of what your audience longs for, that find the meeting place between those two things.
With a clear pathway to transformation the moment they walk out the door. Boom. Epic Content.
During the getting booked portion of Women Who Speak, my speaker mastermind for women leaders, one of the first steps I ask participants to take is to publicly identify as a Speaker.
In social media profiles, on websites, in conversations. Let the world know you have something to say that you want people to hear, and you want them to hear it on stages they invite you to speak on.
Not just event producers, but friends, neighbors, colleagues. Introduce yourself as a SPEAKER. That’s a starting place.
Then, find out where your audience hangs out. Go to conferences and events where you want to speak. Make yourself know to the people who run those events.
Be generous. Build real relationships. Connect people to other people who you think could serve them.
Put yourself out again and again. And again. Be visible.
When you speak, stay connected to the people who invited you. Be a speaker they want to bring back. Be a speaker they want to refer to other events producers. Be a speaker their audiences talk about.
There you have it. Networking in a nutshell.
I suppose there might be some people out there who never had to pitch a talk, and who, right from the getgo, had people knocking down their doors to speak.
If you’re one of them, great.
If the vision you have of the speaker you are is the one that means you get to sit home on the couch eating bonbons, knowing that someone will call upon your genius and bring you to their stage and make you a sought-after speaker, then yay for you.
I fully support you in that endeavor.
But as far as I can see, to become a sought-after speaker, you gotta put yourself out. You gotta ask. Relentlessly. You gotta pound the proverbial pavement.
Event producers are not sitting at home with nothing to do waiting for your call. You have to find the events where your audience hangs out. Find out what they want. Find out why they come to that event. Find out whether your message will truly serve them.
You have to do your research. You have to pitch, then pitch again, then pitch again. And then again.
You have to sell yourself. Not sell yourself out. Or sell yourself short. Or sell a pumped up version of yourself. Or sell in any way that compromises your integrity.
But you do have to sell yourself and your big idea.
You have to communicate to the event producer that something you have will benefit their audience in a big way.
That’s what I’m talking about. Pitching.
In order for any of the above steps to be successful in leading you to becoming a sought-after speaker, you gotta know you’re the bomb.
Speaking will bring to the surface any gunky, murky, self-doubting, second-guessing, self-flagellation that’s lurking under the surface.
If you don’t clean it up, it will ooze out of your pores. It’ll show up in your voice and in your face.
I’m not saying you have to kick all that to the curb before you put yourself out. I’m not saying you have to WAIT till you clean all that up before you begin. No way.
In fact, in taking action towards becoming a sought-after speaker, you will clean a lot of it up. You will move a lot of it out.
Taking action, which also means taking big leaps into unknown territory, is the number one thing that will bring that gunk up from the buried nether lands, and, if you meet it when it arises, it will come up and then it will keep moving right on out.
Yes it will be uncomfortable.
Yes it might be scary.
Yes you might want to run.
But if you take action, and look right in the eyes of the self-doubting, procrastinating, second-guessing demons that are trying to keep you small, if you maybe even invite them to tea, the inner transformation that will happen as a result will look something like
KNOWING YOU’RE THE BOMB AND WORTHY OF SPEAKING ON ANY STAGE YOUR LITTLE HEART DESIRES.
THAT’s what will make you a sought-after speaker.
There. That’s it. Epic Content. Networking. Pitching. Knowing you’re the bomb. You can’t have one without the other. Or rather, one without the other won’t quite get you there.
But with all 4, you’ll be a quadruple threat.
July 5th, 2018
When I got rolling on my newsletter habit this spring, I made a list of questions people often ask me.
So I sat down to write the newsletter and wrote this whole intro about how people ask me that question all the time. Then I realized… wait a minute. Do they? Actually, not so much. My clients generally have bigger fish to fry, and aren’t really worrying about their hands.
But sometimes when I watch speakers, I put my coaches hat on and think maybe that should be a question they’re asking.
So…since you asked…. 🙂
Most of us are not terribly conscious about what we do with our hands & arms. Your hands just do what they need to do to get the job done. They cook and dig and hug and touch and write and type and clean and open car doors and carry groceries and hold babies and so much more.
But when you get up to speak, suddenly they become these long appendages just hanging from your shoulders, entirely cumbersome, in the way, over-busy or wanting to hide. You might become hyper aware of them and flail them about, or maybe you’d rather just leave them at home. All of a sudden they become something you have to figure out what to “do” with.
So when the sudden light of awareness gets shined on these long and rather awkward appendages, your hands and arms fall into habitual patterns as a sort of safe landing pad. A comfy groove. Something you can put on auto-pilot while the rest of you faces the crowd.
There are the flailing hands
the fingertip-to-fingertip hands
the thigh slap
the jab the air repeatedly
the repetitive gesture
the pocket hide-out
the protecting-your-naval folded hands
the protecting-your-crotch folded hands
…to name a few.
If any of those patterns sound familiar–as in YOU DO THEM– you’re not alone. They’re just patterns, and like any pattern, they can be changed. With awareness and attention and practice, you can create new grooves so your hands, your arms AND YOUR TALK become fully integrated with your heart and your message.
so you can access their full expressive power, and they can support your talk rather than distract from it.
1. Your hand is an extension of your heart. Your open hand is a direct through-line from your heart to your audience. Draw a line with your hand from your heart, down your arm to your other hand and back again. When you’re speaking, your audience gets connected to this line. Your hands actually serve as a way to let your audience into your heart.
2. Connect your spoken pauses to your gestural pauses. When your speech pauses, pause your gesture. When your gestures pause, pause your speech. This can help bring more awareness to the space you take when you speak, helping you slow down and bring mindfulness to your hands AND your speech.
3. Notice what you do with your hands off stage, when you’re talking to someone you care about, or telling a story, or sharing something you’re passionate about. Notice what your hands do when you’re not “speaking” and take note of what they do naturally. There’s probably a clue there to what to do with your hands when you are speaking.
4. If you notice a repetitive, habitual gesture, DON’T DO IT. When you’re practicing your talk, do one round of practice that is fully focussed on your gestures. If you catch something that you do in a repetitive way over and over again, bring your attention there and just DO SOMETHING ELSE. This will probably feel awkward at first, and is certainly easier said than done, but super important to muddle through the awkwardness in service of new patterns & pathways.
5. Do your homework. And come to the Speaker’s Playground! In other words, it takes practice. In order to create new pathways, you have to get uncomfortable for a while, and practice new pathways over and over again. But the pay-off is huge. (Here’s a link to the FREE CLASS I’ll be offering on July 31.)
Trust me on this. What you do with your hands can make a huge difference in helping you feel grounded, connecting you to your audience, conveying the power of your message, and communicating your care and passion for your message.
Stand up right now and open your arms wide, palms forward. Imagine your heart opening through your hands. Let yourself take up space. Breathe into your heart. Breathe into your hands.
See you out there!
June 21st, 2018
Are you an ummer? Or is ah and uh more your style? How bout so and and? Wanna stop saying um once and for all?
When I was in middle school, I remember being at a church youth group meeting listening to one of the older girls gave a talk to the younger girls. She was imparting some older-girl wisdom and I listened intently. At the end of her talk I raised my hand and said, “You said y’know 36 times.”
I guess I got started early as a public speaking coach. 🙂
When I first hung my shingle as a grown-up public speaking coach, I thought, “Yeah…. whatever. Um, no um. A few ums is no big deal. I’ve got bigger fish to fry. It’s more about the heart of your message, the story you tell, how you show up, and the connections you make with the people in your audience.”
And true, it is.
BUT the ums (and ahs and uhs….and sos and ands and y’knows and likes and all those other sounds & words we use to fill the gaps) are major impediments to making that connection. To getting your message across. To staying fully present in the room as a powerful, impactful speaker.
Oh the flip side, when you stop saying um, it allows the audience more time and space and ease to actually hear your message and integrate what you’re said.
We’ve been working on THE UM THING in recent sessions of The Speaker’s Playground. What I’m learning more and more is that doing this work touches on all aspects of becoming a more powerful public speaking.
Your presence and connection and clarity all become stronger and sharper when you stop saying um, let all the fillers go by the wayside. Then YOU become the powerhouse in the room, and have the impact you’re meant to have.
(I’m using um to stand for all filler words, so if um isn’t your thing, but starting sentences with so or and is, then stay with me!)
Here we go….
Being blissfully unaware might work for a little while, but once you start paying attention and eradicating the ums, you’ll see how powerful your speech can be without them.
After blissfully unaware comes ridiculously-stilted, self-conscious, stumbling awareness, where the only thing your brain sees is that big glaring UM that you’re trying so hard not to say. It’s possible that paying attention might even make you start saying more ums at first. Yuck. Who wants that?
But if you stay through the self-conscious phase (where you’re thinking about it constantly and it’s driving you mad) you will find yourself on the other side in the integration phase, where you’re not thinking about it, but the new groove in your brain has been formed and ums don’t slip in. Or at least you have enough agency and awareness to make a different choice when they try to slip in.
So find a way to track your ums. Ask a friend to be your “um-dinger” next time you give a talk. Turn on your phone and record yourself speaking. Watch a video of yourself speaking.
You might not realize how many filler words you’re using. Once you start noticing, rather than um-bashing yourself, celebrate that you’re now aware, and start working to eradicate those ums!
Waaaaay down. Go slow enough to catch the ums. Slow enough so your words aren’t pouring out of your mouth faster than your brain is thinking. Slow enough to make a different choice when you feel the um coming.
It’s ok to pause. It’s ok to take a moment and think about what you’re going to say next. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post all about THE POWER OF THE PAUSE, and all the different ways to integrate pauses into your speaking)
Your brain might get tripped up here. When you feel the um coming, you might pause, and then all your brain can see is that glaring um that it’s trying so hard not to say.
That’s ok. Just hang there for a minute. The um will dissolve and you’ll get back to your message, even more clearly, even more powerfully, with you even more fully in the room.
Just. Slow. Down.
One of the things we discovered in The Speaker’s Playground Tuesday night is that in that space where the um isn’t happening, there’s room for connection, for my humanity to touch yours. Which can feel mightily uncomfortable. And exactly what we’re after when we’re speaking, right?
I know pausing can be one of the scariest things on the planet. A pause means you have to actually be present with yourself and your audience and potentially feel whatever fear or discomfort you might be having inside.
But the pause is where it’s at.
If you’re not saying um, you’re bringing yourself into more mindful presence. You might find yourself in a state of “I don’t know.” You might feel a little lost for a moment. And who’s there to find you but your audience!
So when you have that impulse to push away the discomfort, close the gap, run away and say UM, hang right there, with the discomfort of not knowing, of actually sensing and allowing what’s happening in your body, slowing down enough to breathe, noticing your audience is there to be with you.
Yikes, indeed. But that’s exactly when real connection happens. And is way more satisfying and fun than saying um. 🙂
Eradicating the ums is a practice. By paying attention to it, you will strengthen that muscle and create a new pathway, a new groove.
A concert pianist practices scales over and over, but when she gets on stage, she is connected to the heart of the music, to her audience, to the magic of what’s inside the music. She’s not thinking about scales. But you better believe she’s done them.
Doing um-dinger practice is like doing scales. Or lifting weights. Or running hill sprints. It is a muscle that takes focus and attention to strengthen. It can be hard work. And it’s totally worth it. (Want practice support? Come join us in The Speaker’s Playground!)
The more you bring your awareness to it, the more you work that muscle, the more easeful it will become to catch those fillers and make a different choice right there in the moment of speaking, bringing more of your powerful presence to the stage.
Have fun, and let me know how it goes!
June 9th, 2017
April 17th, 2017
Johanna is the real deal in bringing her insightful teaching and coaching to clients. I have worked with her privately on several occasions to prepare my talks. She has helped me bring my storytelling and speaking forward in huge steps.
March 30th, 2017
Or are you the person who NEVER prepares, and wings it every time, and thinks you’re pretty genius?
You probably are. That’s awesome.
But here’s the thing. The next time you get up on stage to speak, preparing for and rehearsing your talk is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your audience, your business & the world.
I’m not kidding.
I believe you…sort of.
I’ve been in the camp of non-preparers, for sure. But as I move forward in my speaking career, I find myself preparing MORE.
You’d think I’d need to prepare LESS as I go.
In someways, that’s true. I spend less time creating the talk.
The talks are written. Got that dialed in.
I’ve given the same talks a bunch of times, so I don’t have to create a new talk every time I give one. I tweak it a little for each particular audience, but the basics of the content is the same.
Since the content is crafted, and tried & true, I now get to spend my time honing in on the most specific language, nailing the parts that previously I stumbled over, getting the transitions to flow like melted butter, and feeling ease & flow in my offer.
That’s what I want for you.
Be sure to share how YOU prepare for a speech in the comments below. And let me know how it goes the next time you speak!
See you out there!
March 13th, 2017
I have an amazing friend who is a long-time, die-hard New Yorker. She’s lived in the same tiny apartment between Avenues C & D in the East Village for 30 years. The bathtub is in the kitchen. (And it’s my favorite bathtub in the world)
Jane takes bubble baths and wears bright red lipstick and has spent a good part of her career working as a hospice nurse for homeless men with AIDS.
She tells stories and finds the treasure in everyone she meets.
We met in a week-long community dance training in Washington DC in 1994, and became fast friends by telling one another stories about love. When the training ended, I went back to Ohio, she went back to New York, and we agreed to write love letters to one another.
As in letters about love, and all the many ways it manifests in our lives.
For a long time, we did.
It was amazing.
But in Jane’s world, everything is amazing.
(If you’re ever feeling dull, or uninspired, or like your life is not all shiny and fancy like that other person’s is, give Jane a call and she will remind you of the amazingness of it all.)
I got reminded of that this week because another amazing friend gave me an assignment to ask a stranger about something amazing that happened in the last week.
It took a while for me to get around to doing it, because who walks up to strangers and asks them a question like that?
Apparently I do.
Here’s this week’s Just Say Something video.
About the AMAZING stories right before your eyes.
Have a listen. This one’s just under 4 minutes.
Now go find a stranger and ask them what amazing this happened in their life this week, and post in the comments a story you hear. Or what cracked open when you asked the question. Or what amazing thing happened in your life this week.
Go! Now! Do it!
See you out there!