Professional speakers are known for being ready to speak anywhere, anytime (for the right price). I’ve witnessed and heard many stories over the years of heroics involving helicopters and cross-country journeys in the middle of the night in order to get to a gig, or a series of gigs.
But even speakers have to take a holiday once in a while, and the speaking business does have its seasons, so here are a few tips for Type A speakers on vacation – what to do to keep yourself occupied as you’re sitting on the beach or racing down the slide, or just plain fishing.
People Watching. The IRS (or your local taxing authority) should allow you to write off any vacation that involves any people watching, because those people may well become your audience, and you need to know your audience better than they know themselves. That means studying them, studying their body language, and figuring out what they do when they’re engaged, and how they signal disengagement.
Here are a couple of things to look for. Engagement usually means drawing closer to each other. So watch people as they meet, chat, and say goodbye. Are they fully connected with the other person or the group? Or are they half there, with some body language indicating a desire to move on to the next thing? Understanding the mixed messages people send with their faces and bodies can greatly deepen your ability to read others. Adults have a lot of practice in controlling their faces, but they are less able to control the rest of their bodies, so look to the feet and hands to see how interested someone is in the conversation.
Being Present. The art of charisma is the art of focusing in the moment, and focusing emotion in the moment. Speakers have a lot to coordinate and think about, and the art of focus can often get lost in the shuffle of slides, dress, timing, lights, technology, logistics, and stage fright – not to mention the audience. So the holidays are a great time to practice that elusive focus.
Think about that ridiculously fruity drink with the little parasol you’re holding in your hand – think about it to the exclusion of all else. Now, try to ignore the splashing of your kids in the pool, the dolphin swimming by, the blonde…. That’s focus, and that’s the beginning of the work of being in the moment. There’s no better time to practice the art of presence than when you are relaxed, have little else to think about, and have something alluring to ponder.
Next, find an emotion and practice invoking that emotion to the exclusion of everything else. Recall a time when you felt that emotion strongly and naturally, and go deep into that memory. What did it smell like, taste like, feel like, look like and sound like? What happened and in what order? Re-create the scene in order to feel the emotion. It’s much easier to do when you’re not under the gun, so put down that trashy novel and get to (emotional) work.
Finding Your Voice. Life knocks the stuffing out of us sometimes, and the daily grind can wear us down. That’s what vacations are for, of course: to re-charge and stuff ourselves back up with the energy and enthusiasm we need to get on another plane and head off to the next gig. It helps when you’re on the road to know who you are and what your mission is. It keeps you sane and on track. So spend your down time thinking (idly) about why you do what you do. What’s your essence? What really makes you tick? Can you sum it up in an interesting one to three minutes? Work on that now, and you’ll be ready to chat with your seat mate on that red-eye back from the coast next time.
It’s a vacation. Take it. But if you’re Type A – and I know you are – you can also make it pay down the road. Happy relaxing!