October 24, 2013

Stupid Car Fight? Writer’s Block? Prepping an Important Presentation? Walk it Out….

We all know the phrase, “Walk it off”—used to encourage someone to shake off pain or injury and inspire them to keep going. I’m writing today about “Walking it Out”: the fastest, easiest way I know to derail a ridiculous argument, unblock writer’s block, and prep a presentation that will knock your audience’s socks off.

Let’s look first at stupid car fights:

Have you ever noticed how many truly unnecessary fights occur when you’re trapped in a car or across the table in a restaurant with someone? My theory is that this is because people aren’t able to move around—to give their feelings a physical outlet—and as their feelings get throttled the possibilities for problem solving are choked off.  My recommendation? Say, “Can we table this until we can go for a walk? I want to give it—and you—the time and attention it deserves.”

It may not always work, but it’s worth a try.

How can walking help you with speeches?

Clients often call me when they don’t know exactly what they want to say- to ask me if I can I figure it out for them. “No,” I tell them, “but I can help you figure it out. Let’s go for a walk.”

Many people get cranky at this. Many people think I’m stalling.

But what I’ve discovered, and what they discover by the end of the walk, is that they do know what they think, or feel, or want to say, but that these thoughts and feelings haven’t had room to grow because they’ve been trying to problem-solve while sitting in chairs, behind desks, or at keyboards. Moving around helps them find the emotional impulses behind what they’re thinking, so the ideas come. It also helps them find the cadence they need to express their thoughts eloquently.

Finally, prepping a presentation.

At one or another point, almost every single client I have has asked me, “What’s the secret to a great presentation?” to which I always say, “Practicing out loud,” and their faces fall….it’s kind of like finding out you need to exercise as well as diet—that it’s not enough to merely pop a pill.

But here’s the thing: a lot of them are sad about practicing out loud because so many books on speaking say, “Practice out loud in front of your bathroom mirror.”

Frankly, I’d rather be trapped in a midnight fire at sea.

What I want you to do is to go for a walk and practice your presentation out loud as you do so. (If you don’t wish to seem like a crazy person, you can hold your phone against your head and pretend to be on a call.) This forces you to acknowledge any gaps in your logic/plot holes in your story; it reveals problems with transitions; and it embeds the presentation in your body, which helps with retention when you’re under pressure.

So the next time you’re having a preposterous fight, you’re struggling with writer’s block, or your presentation simply has to wow, get up and walk it out.

Frances Cole Jones

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