Speaking Circles

Reported by Nicholas Albery on Global Ideas Bank.

Lee Glickstein has launched a movement called Speaking Circles to help people to practice becoming public speakers and has led over 2,000 such groups himself. He believes that any group, whether of friends, family or business colleagues, can use the formula to create a Speaking Circle of their own. I am inspired by this book to want to try forming a Speaking Circle in North London, UK - so any reader who might like to take part, please make contact.

The essence of a Speaking Circle is to limit the numbers to a maximum of ten and to allow each member five minutes on stage, with the audience giving only positive feedback afterwards, thus creating a feeling of safety and gradually repairing the damage from any earlier public traumas in life. Glickstein explains the details in this book:

How do you find what to talk about in your five minutes? In a Speaking Circle it is perfectly permissible to remain silent for your five minutes on stage. The idea is to be yourself - and if you are a nervous wreck, not to seek to hide this. But Glickstein advises that meditating beforehand on the following questions may help you to find suitable subject matter:

Being yourself on stage is not a list of techniques you can apply, but here, nevertheless, are some of Glickstein's helpful suggestions:

Glickstein also gives advice for longer speechmaking in daily life, much of which is relevant to Speaking Circles too: he advises opening your speech with a short true story from your own life - an experience that you learnt from and that connects with the topic of your speech (take up to three minutes on this). Then outline in three or four sentences the major points you will cover. Now promise people in one sentence what they will get out of your talk. Make sure, either by asking or through nonverbal signals, that this prospectus is acceptable to your audience, and then launch into the body of the talk. The talk can be designed to follow Glickstein's ARC, which stands for Awareness, Reframing and Commitment.

In the Awareness section, you need to address:

In Reframing, you present a way of solving the problem in a new and dynamic way. In Commitment, you tell the audience what specific things they can do right away to help tackle this problem in their own lives. Each part of the ARC is best introduced with a relevant personal story.

Close the talk by telling the audience what it has been like to spend this time with them, inviting them to contact you, or end with an inspirational quote or with more of your personal story. "Your ending," writes Glickstein, "can be an opening to their relationship with your solutions and a lifetime relationship with you."

This book - and its socially innovative Speaking Circles - are not only a must for anxious public speakers but could also help people to relax and be themselves in ordinary day-to-day encounters.

Lee Glickstein can be contacted at: Center for Transformational Speaking, 450 Taraval Street #218, San Francisco CA 94116, USA (tel 001-800- 610- 0169.). The book and a videotape on "How To Conduct Your Own Speaking Circle" are available.

A London Speaking Circle

Nicholas Albery reports:

We tried out the Speaking Circle in November 1997 just using the advice in the above article and it went very well. We cabled a Super VHS C camera up to a TV and to an ordinary VHS video machine, so participants could use ordinary VHS tapes, and put a couple of strong lights in place on either side of the speaker's face.

We booked 12 places, but three people dropped out at the last moment, which is just as well, as our meeting met at 7pm, started at 7:30pm, went on till 10:15pm, then we had a meal together. It overran because, although we kept a good eye on the length of each speech, we neglected to be equally strict with the (up to) 30 seconds of feedback from each participant. But when we got Tibetan bells organized to crash together after 30 seconds, we speeded up no end.

Three people forgot to bring videos. One forgot to bring food to share. It proved harder to get the men than the women to avoid commenting on the contents of each person's speech, rather than their own emotional reaction to it. Otherwise, it all went just fine.

At the end, instead of the facilitator summing up, we each had 30 seconds to comment on how it had been for us and any improvements we might like for next time. One man said he would have preferred critical comments but my response to this was that the video watched back at home would give him all the opportunities for self-criticism he could want.

Source: . September 2000.

Glickstein, Lee. How To Compel Rapt Attention Every Time You Speak, Leeway Press, 450 Taraval Street #218, San Francisco, CA 94116, 1996.

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