This week I am preparing for the Professional Speaker’s Association of Southern Africa’s annual convention themed ‘Walking our Talk’.
I will be one of the MC’s for the Saturday 12 March together with Dineshrie Pillay and Siphiwe Moyo. My job is to help the participants digest some of the input so they are less overwhelmed. Our experience of past conventions were that it is like drinking from a fire hose: it is a fabulously exhilarating experience, yet very little goes in and so much is wasted. It happens, of course, because every single talk is delivered by a high energy, well seasoned professional speaker.
what to do?
Our solution was to create five moments of pause dotted throughout the programme so that people can move around and reflect on how their bodies, feelings and thoughts are responding to the input. As I described the intention at a meeting between all the MC’s and convener, the audio-visual wiz (also a professional speaker, Robin Pullen) asked a very good question:
Wouldn’t reflective exercises cause the energy in the room to drop??
What a great question. It really made me think, thanks Robin. Here is my response:
There are more than just ‘up’ and ‘down’ energy in a room full of people. There is also ‘in’ and ‘out’ energy.
If ‘up’ energy is when people feel enthusiastic and motivated and eager, and ‘down’ energy is when people feel lethargic, slow and unresponsive, surly you want more of the first kind and less of the second. Now consider ‘in’ and ‘out’ energy.
‘Out’ energy would be the kind of energy that the speakers are exuding. They are speaking out gesturing outward and pouring their passion out as gift to the audience. The audience receives this with enthusiasm and energy until they are full. Now where does that energy go? It is washing past them and getting wasted – it is being dropped.
What if we could turn some of that energy inward?
In this way an audience member can begin to nourish his or her own thoughts and ideas with it, begin to manage it and put it away safely for absorption. This will mean they are already channelling some of the energy and making room for more input, helping to keep the energy buoyant.
I believe firmly that unless an audience member is able to connect the story in the room with his or her own story, the whole event and experience will remain locked in time for them when they go home. Sure, they will have a notebook full of stuff to use and do, but how much of it will they really implement?
My job at this convention will be to facilitate moments of intensified energy: energy being focussed inward to serve and nourish the work and life of each audience member.
So how do you avoid dropping the energy in the room?
By managing it’s flow in and out like breathing.