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February 2024
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Dare To Be Unconventional

Embrace your unique style to stand out onstage.

By Bill Brown, DTM

Illustration of a toolbox
Illustration by Bart Browne

There is a well-worn cliché about thinking outside the box. But what about speaking outside the box?

Years ago, I worked in voice-over narration, mainly reading for corporate videos. I had a number of competitors in my locale, and we all sounded alike. This was brought home to me one day when we all got together to put on a show for a local charity.

We came to an audio studio to record segments for the program. Afterward, we stood around talking as the producer edited the script in the background. I heard my voice drifting from the edit bay, but I didn’t recognize the words. Wow! It wasn’t me! At the time I was talking to another narrator and assumed it was him. He then said, “Oh my gosh. We all sound alike!” It wasn’t him either. That told me that I needed to become unique in some way.

Figure out who you are and become that personality onstage.

Speakers, all too often, suffer from that same malady. Granted we all have different voices, but our styles are frequently the same. This is particularly true in the corporate environment, where your job security might be tied to how well you fit the “corporate pattern.” While fitting in may be safe, what does it do for your upward mobility?

My challenge to you is to dare to be unconventional onstage.

Each one of us is different. We each have our own unique blend of strengths. Some of you are good at writing a speech. Others are good with voice. I am strong in vocal variety, facial expressions, and stories.

The key is to design a style that accentuates your strengths. While my style is high energy and expressive, it is still relatively traditional. I am looking to expand into keynotes. And, for me, that means developing a signature style. What about you? Are you ready for a change?

If you are ready to push your speaking to another level, I suggest three practices.

1It takes confidence to be unconventional.

Yes, it takes confidence to be different from everyone else. If you lack confidence right now, work to change that. Speak as often as you can in your club and at your job. The more you speak, the more confident you will get. Don’t worry about being unconventional just yet. Build that confidence.

2Work on your mindset.

If you blend into the crowd, you can hide there, but you may stay hidden. If, on the other hand, you find yourself saying, “Pick me, pick me,” you have to give them a reason to do so. You have to want to move ahead. And sometimes, especially if you are an employee, that means moving ahead of your peers. You have to be willing to stand out, which may involve being willing to stick out. You must be willing to accept the attention.

3If you are to stand out onstage, you have to be yourself.

You might be saying, “But I am so bland.” If you are thinking about taking your speaking to the next level, you are definitely not bland. Figure out who you are and become that personality onstage.

Take an inventory of where you are strong. Maybe you have a dynamic personality just itching to come out. Maybe you enjoy using your voice to drive your message home. Perhaps facial expressions are your strong suit. Or maybe you are good at portraying various characters, which could lead to having a dialogue between two of them. Then again, perhaps your strength involves powerful phrases and descriptions.

Create your strength inventory, then brainstorm on the various ways that you can incorporate them into your speeches.

Granted, it may be a stretch to use some of those strengths in a corporate environment, but use some creativity. Find a way to stand apart from the rest.

Toastmasters is the perfect place to test it out. Think of the opportunities with Pathways speeches and Table Topics®. My favorite, the Tall Tales Contest, allows you to be as unconventional as you want to be.

I enjoy being onstage. But I enjoy it more when I am being myself. And, for me, that means being a little unconventional. Then, again, I am more effective that way.

How about you? Are you ready to be yourself onstage?


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