During college, I spent three hours a day practicing the piano when I would have preferred toiling away in the library alongside a cute guy or two. Those hours of practice had their benefits: practice led to decent grades and a senior recital I was proud of. But I thought the scope of the benefits stemming from self-imposed practice room exile pretty much ended there.
Until last week. As I practiced my speech for TEDxEmbarcadero, I found I not only knew how to put in the work, but how to prepare – because of piano.
I needed it, because I hadn’t given this type of speech before. I’ve spoken in front of large groups, but my speech has always been typed out word for word to mitigate against any major gaffes. When I have worked off an outline, the groups have been small, a dozen people or so, making it less a speech, more a discussion. Given that this speech would involve both a large audience, and no more than a few bullet points on index cards, I had to get to work.
As I did, there were things I instinctively knew to do:
- Memorize the speech beginning with the last module, and work my way forward. Every word uttered is a word closer to familiar territory.
- Break the speech into small segments, repeating them until I’ve got them nailed. Then, start stringing segments, followed by modules, together, with particular emphasis on transitioning from one module to the next.
- Talk through the mistakes. Mistakes divert my attention, and can quickly overwhelm my confidence. As I practiced, instead of stopping when I made mistakes and starting over, I practiced recovering.
- Incorporate my love of jazz. While I did come to jazz fairly late, and haven't yet learned to improvise as I'd like, this speech gave me the opportunity to do that a bit. Be so clear on the basic structure, there would be room for spontaneity, riffing the details here and there.
- Dress rehearse. Full disclosure. I didn’t really do that well in college. Perfectionism ran way too deep. But as a recovering perfectionist, in preparing for TEDx I ‘kindly asked myself’ to practice in front of a few people. And I agreed. When I did, I made huge strides. Not only did my trusted advisors give me good feedback, as I practiced through my mistakes, my confidence began to build. The key of course was to practice in front of people I trust.
Happily, the speech went well.
Practicing the piano. A gift that's really begun to give.
Is there something that you did when you were younger, that you didn't particularly enjoy, but now you are grateful you did?
Does this strengthen your resolve – to keep at your children to work on something?
P.S. You'll note I missed posting last week. I was sick. So — instead of wrapping up my Grateful series today, I'll do one more post next week.