Tricia Karp Tricia Karp
14 May 2018

What a group of kids reminded me about powerful speaking

I’m just back from three weeks in the USA on a performing arts tour with my daughter, Lila.

She was part of a group of 55 kids who travelled with their families to New York City, and then a smaller group that performed on a cruise ship in the western Caribbean and then at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

I want to share the powerful speaking insights I was reminded of by the kids in the hope they’ll help you to speak more powerfully too.

First stop: New York City

The group took part in a workshop with an organisation that adapts Broadway musicals so they can be performed by kids.

Usually hundreds of kids from the US audition to take part in the workshops, and our group was the first to be admitted from outside the US based on videos of their productions in Adelaide.

To be accepted was a big deal.

The kids auditioned for parts and then spent five days workshopping a brand new musical, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They performed it for us on the final day on a Broadway stage.

What the kids achieved during such a short time was, as always, astounding.

I asked Lila whether she learned anything new during the week. Her answer: Not really.

 

She said the New York producers approached the week in exactly the same way as the directors do here in Adelaide. She said it was fun.

Powerful speaking insights

Sometimes what we think will be the greatest opportunity when we speak doesn’t turn out to be.

I’ve had this happen many times over.

And sometimes when I don’t expect anything much to come from a talk, because it’s a small audience or I’m not sure it’s the right audience or the right event where I’m speaking, I’m surprised by the impact and results.

Sometimes too we plant seeds in our audience’s minds and hearts, and they contact us years after they heard us speak to ask if we can work together. I’ve had this happen a few times.

Speak anyway and keep speaking. The world needs your passion, purpose and message.

Also, when you love what you do and care about making a difference, just keep doing it. The kids in this group love performing and for them that’s more than enough. A great reminder.

Second stop: Caribbean Cruise, Performance 1

The group was scheduled to perform their show, Seize the Day, twice on the cruise ship.

They’d rehearsed the show for three months before the trip, and had to carry all their costumes in their hand luggage in case the worst happened and luggage went missing (which it did for one of the teenage boys who had to borrow shoes and clothes from some of the dads on the trip! After experiencing American Airlines, I will never complain about an Australian airline again).

One of the lead performers was quite unwell and had to be assessed by the ship’s doctor for approval to board the ship. Some of the other kids had terrible colds.

The first performance was on 9am, the day after we’d boarded the ship. We’d heard that not many people get up early on a ship.

The daily schedules put in letter boxes outside the cabins didn’t advertise the show. Very few people knew about it.

The kids had had an early morning rehearsal but not in the theatre where they’d be performing. They hadn’t had a chance to do a costume run, let alone on the stage. Some of them had to take on the roles for those who were sick and forgot some of the words in the songs.

All of us parents were at the show to cheer them on, plus a few other people who’d happened to hear about the show somehow.

It was a shame. And, it also felt like one of the greatest learning opportunities of the trip.

Powerful speaking insights

You need to let go of everything it took to get to the moment of you standing on that stage to speak: the preparation, the stress and fear, the stories in your head about what it would or wouldn’t be like, whether you’ve done enough preparation or worrying about what other people will think, and any other challenges.

The moment you open your mouth to speak, you don’t know what will happen. You don’t know how it will go. You can’t predict how your audience will respond. You don’t always know how many people will show up. You really can’t know.

You just have to trust yourself, speak powerfully, and give it your all.

Every stage is different. The room might not be set up the way you want it to be. You might not have been able to have the input you wanted, or maybe you did, and the organisers didn’t respond accordingly.

Every audience is different too.

Maybe some people walk out halfway through your talk.

Regardless of it all, the show must go on.

Own and stand in your power.

Caribbean Cruise: Performance 2

The kids did a second performance on the second-last day of the cruise. All of us had spoken to as many guests as we could to invite them to the show. The cruise director had spoken publicly about the show too by then, and some of the older performers did some late night mini-performances to publicise the show.

The theatre was nearly full. All the sick kids were better and were back on the stage.

This show was incredible! High energy and simply amazing. These kids really are fantastic.

The guy who sings in the piano bar on the ship gave a standing ovation, and the entire theatre followed suit.

A woman we’d met from South Carolina sat next to me with her husband, and hollered (such an American word) “Go Lila!”

She gave Lila $20 at the end of the show, telling her to buy herself something because she couldn’t buy her flowers on the ship, and we all had a photo together.

She raved about the show, as did the other guests we’d invited. People were blown away.

The feedback was unanimous: This was the best show of the week on the entire ship.

One elderly couple asked how they get could a DVD of the show so they could watch it again and share it with others.

Powerful speaking insights

Never allow yourself to be defined by your last talk if it didn’t go the way you hoped it would.

Next time can be, and usually is, different.

I remember doing a live cross when I worked in TV and it was a total disaster, and I’m forever grateful to my boss for making me do another one the next night – which went exceptionally well.

Oh, and sometimes you need to go halfway around the world to really understand how talented you are.

Trust in the people who asked you to speak. They see something in you that might not just yet.

Workshop with the ship performers

The kids had an opportunity to do a workshop with the ship performers, who did four different shows during the cruise.

We went to the first show and were shocked. There was a lot of  “bump and grind” dancing. Lila said it was inappropriate! We joked that that’s what the performers would be teaching our kids.

Apparently they were a brand new cast who were performing together for the first time. In my humble opinion, they were a perfect match for the entire trashy and tacky cruise experience.

These were professional performers. They’d auditioned for these jobs and had been selected as the ship’s cast. Apparently their style of dance is called ‘commercial’.

Lila said the best part of the workshop was asking the performers questions about their work and what its like to live on the ship.

Fortunately they didn’t teach the kids the “bump and grind”.

Powerful speaking insights

You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

There’ll be people in your audiences who don’t like you, or what you say, or even the shoes (or skimpy costume!) you’re wearing.

Speak anyway. Your message is what matters most. Focus on that and the impact and difference you’re here to make.

What other people think of you is their business, not yours.

Third stop: Disney World – Orlando, Florida

The group had an opportunity to do a workshop at Disney.

They’d had to learn a few lines from Mary Poppins beforehand, and the song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

The group was split in two for two workshops: juniors and seniors. There were about 20 kids in the juniors, and they each had to audition for parts.

Lila was chosen as Mary Poppins!

It was her first time being selected for a lead role. After having singing lessons for 12 months, she’s just started getting minor solo parts.

It felt very special to be selected for a lead role by a Disney performer who’s cast for Steven Spielberg and west end shows.

The feedback from this workshop was that it was incredible, and our directors said they learned a lot that they’ll bring back for the kids in Adelaide.

Powerful speaking insights

Different people will see different things in you.

Take what’s useful for you to use strategically to achieve your goals and forget the rest – as a speaker and leader.

Trust you have something that’s worth saying, and keep standing up and saying it and putting yourself out there.

Disney World performance

The group put on their last show at Disney Springs, a shopping centre with a stage backing on to a lake, which is the only place at Disney World where outside performers can perform.

There is some seating, although mostly people are shopping and walking past.

There were no change rooms on the stage, just a panel screen along the back where the kids had to do quick costume changes between songs.

It was a stinking hot day. The audio wasn’t great and sometimes didn’t work at all.

The kids gave their all and did an amazing job. It was mostly us families watching them, and a few shoppers.

I was touched, as always, by how much these kids love performing and how great they are. Some of them, when they sing, make me cry.

We found out after that Disney World were raving about our incredible performers. The head of Disney Performing Arts was so impressed, the performers were selected to create the Disney in-house training package complete with interviews, performance footage and backstage highlights.

Powerful speaking insights

You never know who’s in the audience and the impact you might have.

And, it’s never okay to approach speaking from that place.

Stay true to your heart, be yourself, and share the message that matters to you.

Make your talk an offering, with all of who you are.

That’s what comes first. The rest will follow naturally.

Whenever I’ve been fuelled by something outside of myself, such as wanting to get a certain number of clients, or make a certain amount of money, I’ve lost power.

I’m most powerful when I stay close to my mission and message, and speak with all my heart. I’ve learned that the rest takes care of itself. Always.

~~~

Is it time for you to start speaking powerfully, to spread your message and make the difference you’re here to make? Let’s talk.

 

 

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