Communicating from Your Wilderness

Whale playing on its back, with tail out of the water, up in the air

“Wilderness” is a wonderful poem by Carl Sandburg. Each stanza begins with a different animal. I have chosen the one about the eagle and the mockingbird as an example about communicating from your own wilderness:

“There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird . . . and the eagle flies among the Rocky Mountains of my dreams and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want . . . and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon, before the dew is gone, warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope, gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes – And I got the eagle and the mockingbird from the wilderness.”

(To read the rest of this incredible poem visit the Poetry Foundation.)

What, you may be asking, does this have to do with communicating? Just as I have talked about using different colors to inspire and enhance your speaking and presentations, I would now like to offer using a sense of an animal to help emphasize the emotions you use behind the words you are speaking.

Which animal would you choose?

Let’s say the overall intention of your speech is to inspire your audience. Then I would ask you, what animal inspires you?

When you see the animal or a picture of it, how does it make you feel? What is it about the animal or their behavior that makes you feel that way? Can you get a sense of that animal in your body?

If I were to choose an animal that inspires me, I would choose the grey whale because of their gentleness, and because of their tenacity in their six thousand mile journey they make each year from Alaska to Baja California to mate and give birth. There is a sense of calm and majesty about them, as I picture them gliding though the waves that serves to settle me, while giving me a sense of power as I prepare to speak in front of an audience.

What if you wanted to entertain and have fun with your audience?

What animal do you readily see as fun and entertaining? I might choose a young chimpanzee. I would emphasize getting a sense of how loose their bodies appear, how freely they swing from tree to tree and how devilish they can be playing with their mothers and each other.

I would work on the innocence in their faces and how their big eyes make me feel connected with the kid in me.

You don’t have to act like a chimpanzee. Instead, try to:
• Feel their essence and energy
• Allow those feelings to affect how you communicate in the moment

Let’s try an exercise

Standing in front of a mirror, get a sense of how an elephant makes you feel. Now, let it into your body. (Don’t be shy; it’s just you and the mirror.)

What about a lion? What is your face doing now? How do lion eyes look, as opposed to the eyes of a kitten?

You might be thinking I’ve gone too far – and that’s OK. All I ask is that you give it a try.

Actors use animals in their work all the time, so why shouldn’t you? There are all kinds of tools and skills out there that you can use to heighten your speaking, presenting and communicating.

Take some chances and expand your repertoire of expression. Your audience will love you more for it and YOU will have more fun doing what you love!

For more great tips on Speaking, Presenting and Communicating get your copy of PRESENTING YOU – or contact me today to see just how you can communicate from your own wilderness!

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