Story of your name & our natural game

Here is a gift from my beautiful neighbours. They lovingly created a 40th birthday message across our front doors at home. I felt honoured (and a little emotional) when I arrived home to see this after a birthday weekend away with family.

And YES, I have just turned 40 … and YES, 1 of my nick-names is “TEDDY”.

‘Story of Name’ as a group process

‘Teddy’ is a nick-name that came from an spare-class that my dad took when in year 9 at High School. Somehow, he let slip that I still slept with a teddy (and yes I admit to that as well!) and then ‘teddy’ stuck as a nick-name. 2 decades later ‘teddy’ has returned as a nickname in my home town.

This is the story that I usually tell when kick-starting a group process known as “Story of Your Name”. I am always moved by people’s stories and surprised at the way this activity connects people together.

Viv McWaters and I use ‘Story of Name’ a when we run our Insanely Great Slideshow Presentations training. The purpose has been to demonstrate how stories engage an audience and how stories (and therefore people’s names) are so easily remembered. I have now discovered another way to use this process.

Naturalness when presenting

When we tell the story of our name, we know the content intimately and we don’t need prior rehearsal or a script – we improvise and allow the story to emerge. I am willing to bet that if we gave participants time to plan and script their name-stories, they would be dull and less engaging. In the moment of the activity, there is no room or time for being clever or trying-hard to be engaging or funny.

Let’s go to the videotape!

A few weeks ago I decided to raise the stakes and video the stories-of-names with a group. These participants gathered to learn how to design and deliver slideshow presentations, so it served a purpose. Despite the increased pressure an iPhone recording their every word, participants managed to do what they always do … tell compelling, short stories about some aspect of their name.

I then played the video back to everyone and invited them to observe themselves and others in relation to their own story and individual delivery styles. Most people recognised themselves as “just being myself”. And quickly, the group realised that “just being ourselves” is not only accessible for everyone, it’s also effective and engaging.

Our Natural Game!

I work with many people who have done training programs to hone their presentation skills. They have been taught about making eye contact with the audience … not to fidget and pace … do this … don’t do that … etc etc.

After having rediscovered Tim Gallway’s ‘The Inner Game’ series of books recently, I was reminded of the Inner Game practices I used when playing state-level tennis years ago. In Inner Tennis, Tim uses simple activities to improve the mind’s ability to focus on what matter’s most. He introduces games like ‘bounce-hit’ to help quieten the conscious/egotistical mind (known as Self 1) and allow our ‘Natural Game’ to surface (known as Self 2).

Our natural game is restricted when Self 1 is focussing on the expert-coach’s instructions like ‘watch the ball’ … take the racket back low … put your right foot forward … grip the racket like this … don’t move your head … stand side on … AAARRRGHH!

When presenting, it’s nerve racking enough. My advice, do what we do when telling the Story of Our Name … BE YOURSELF and KNOW YOUR STORY. Your natural-ness is your greatest gift.

Naturalness when presenting

I am reading Garr Reynolds’ book The Naked Presenter and enjoying it immensely. Here are some thoughts about naturalness from Garr that add to my ideas above …

“… the fundamentals of what makes an effective presentation today are essentially the same as they ever were, and naturalness in delivery remains a key”

“This naturalness is not something that can be forced. The legendary Dale Carnegie said ‘To be truly effective, you must speak with such intensified and exalted naturalness that your auditors would never dream that you have been trained”

The Fear of Failure and on overactive Self 1

I written much about the ‘fear of failure’ and when we give presentations, the it is amplified for many of us. Our inner voice (Self 1) says things like … you won’t remember (so we script notes and add bullet points) … what will my boss think? … I must remember to to do this … do that … etc. In response to fear we burden ourselves with too many instructions and ideas and tips from the training!

“Presenting naturally is hard because we are not in the habit. But it hasn’t alway been that way. When we were younger and performed ‘show & tell’ at the front of the class, we were honest and engaging. It was real. We told great stories and we were only 6!”

Then Garr writes about the fear of failure …

“One reason we are so dull as adult presenters is because we are overly cautious. We are afraid. We want everything to safe and perfect, so we overthink and put up a great many barriers. We’re afraid so we retreat, however unconsciously, and play it safe by hiding behind a stack of bulleted lists in a darkened room in a style void of emotion.”

When tell the ‘story of our name’ to other workshop participants, we are being ourselves (no matter how nervous we are feeling). We also know our story – our name is part of who we are. The story of your name is also part of a conversation with the group and it’s alway engaging and emotional. Best of all, we don’t even need powerpoint slides to get the story across.

In Sum …

Tell a story that you know well

Look at your presentation like it’s a conversation – not a 1 way speech

Remember that ‘who you are’ is what the audience will connect with, not the ‘highly trained and polished’ you. We learn from the world of Improv Theatre then to Put Down Your Clever & Pick Up Your Ordinary

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