Preparing Your Mind for Stage Mastery
Who Should You Emulate?
My speaking hero is Zig Ziglar.
When I was first learning to
speak formally, I had this great idea that, if I could
just emulate Zig, I could be a great speaker too. So, I
began studying his talks, learning some of them word for
word. I practiced his mannerisms and his jokes, and I
began to speak like a Zig Ziglar clone.
Imagine my surprise when people
didn’t respond as well as I thought they would when they
expected a Steve Lowell presentation, and got a Zig
Ziglar impersonation instead. And a poor impersonation,
at that! I even attempted to mimic Zig’s southern drawl
from time to time, and I believe it didn’t go over very
well, since it was exacerbated by the fact that I’m
Canadian, eh! I’d be at some meeting in the Great White
North, speaking like I was fresh off the train from
Yazoo City, Mississippi!
It wasn’t long before I realized
the world wasn’t interested in me being a Zig Ziglar
impersonator. Now, an Elvis impersonator, maybe, but
alas, I realized I needed a new persona.
That’s when I discovered Tony
Robbins. Now, here’s a guy I could imitate! He’s cool,
people like him and he has no drawl. I thought, “I
can do that!” So, my new persona came out as Tony
Robbins on steroids. When I spoke, I’d blast onto the
stage at warp speed, puff out my puny little chest to
make myself look huge, and then I’d whoop and holler as
I bounced around the stage, screeching about goal
setting and self-image. All this time, I had a lousy
self-image and no clear goals for myself. Then, one day
it hit me. Who was I trying to kid? The more I tried to
be like the successful speakers, the less successful I
I spent some time working on my
own self-image, trying to discover who I really was, and
what I really stood for. I struggled with all the rules
I was being taught about speaking, because none of it
felt natural, none of it felt right to me. When I became
an instructor with a major training organization, I was
pressured to follow the rules they laid out as to how I
presented myself. The way I spoke, the words I used, the
way I stood. I was being molded into a genetic clone of
all the other trainers employed by this world-wide
company, and I complied. My new persona became that of a
robot, mechanically programmed to comply with the
company’s procedures for speaking and training.
After a while, I began asking
myself, “Why? Why do I have to stand like that? Why do I
have to use those words and not my own? Why can’t I just
be myself when I’m speaking or instructing?” I became
fed up with the pressure to conform, the pressure to
follow someone else’s rules because they said I had to,
and I decided to move on to something better.
At this point in time, I
discovered something that changed my life forever. I
discovered who I am and what I stand for. I believe our
responsibility is to use our freedom of expression to
present ourselves authentically, and let our experiences
enhance the lives of others.
Notice that I said
“responsibility” and not “right.” The reason I view our
authentic self-expression as a responsibility lies in
the fact that I believe we’ve all been given the gift of
taking a journey through life, not only to evolve our
selves, but also to contribute positively to the growth
and evolution of others. If we gather the lessons and
wisdom gained from our lives, but don’t share those
lessons and that wisdom through our words and our
expressions, no one else will have benefited from our
So, when questioned about who you
should emulate, the answer is no one. Yes, you may
select a few specific traits or mannerisms from your
heroes, and mold them into an effective delivery to
enhance your own style from time-to-time, but, above all
else, be yourself.
So, what’s the lesson? Be
yourself. Everyone else is taken.