29April 2017

Muscle Memory

My old East German Cello teacher used to say to me that I need to know my pieces so well that he could wake me up at 4 in the morning, stick a cello between my legs and before I am even awake, I would be able to start playing. Just to reassure you he never actually did it. I think he was just trying to make a point.

A golden rule in speaking and training is to avoid learning your content off by heart, as:
- a, it loses any sense of spontaneity and flexibility;
- b, you run the risk of getting lost and breaking down;
- c, the delivery may become wooden and unnatural.

However, if there is one exception, that might be worth learning off by heart, the very opening. The opening of any presentation is one of those double whammy moments! It is when you are at your most vulnerable and your audience is at its most attentive. It is when all the cliches about first impressions come true. Once you have spluttered, stumbled and stuttered at the beginning, and made a less than positive first impression, it is very hard to fully recover.

Like most of us, I can become nervous before speaking. I sometimes have an almost out of body experience when I start. It is as if I am looking down on myself and listening from the outside. If I am listening from the outside and I hear myself delivering a good strong first line, I find it much easier to climb back inside myself and carry on with the presentation.

However, if I am not so impressed by what I hear, it is much harder to get back on board. Not for the sake of your audience, but for your own sake, it is vital to start well. A lot of public performance is about confidence and starting well is a great boost.


The opening of a presentation is like the steel toe-cap on a work boot or the front end of a rocket: it needs to be able to hold fast while taking the full impact of your nerves.

My favourite image to support that is of Shakespeare`s Mark Antony waiting to go on stage, thinking to himself:

Friends, Romans, Countrymen: Friends, Romans, Countrymen: Friends, Romans, Countrymen.

So that when he goes out into a fairly hostile atmosphere, he knows that he can deliver his first words virtually on automatic and in the process use those first few moments to adjust and acclimatise to his environment and the thousands of little pieces of information that are flooding his senses: the sound of his voice; the butterflies in the stomach, the unfriendly expression on the face of the man on the left; the itch on the back of the neck; the lady with an abnormally big nose - weird stuff!

I assume that is also what my cello teacher meant. You need to be well-enough prepared that you can start well in spite of yourself and all the new and strange stimuli flooding your senses.

So before you start: Go over those first few moments in your mind, picture a positive result and know that even when you are not feeling completely in control inside, muscle memory will get you through the opening moments until you are ready to take control of the steering wheel yourself and drive on to a successful conclusion!

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Michael's superb training style is underpinned by an incredible depth of knowledge and experience. Like all true experts, he delivers what he knows with ease and simplicity, exampling the skills he is teaching as he does so.

Very informative and great anecdotes which illustrated points and provided visual markers.

The most interesting training that I have ever taken part in! Experience + Wisdom + Perfect teaching approach.

The training was spot on. He really listened to us and customised his responses throughout.

Loved the creation of visual examples through the use of body and how relating the experience really helps demonstrate the message.

Very approachable and motivational. So much information, brilliantly delivered.

Loads of great analogies and stories - very friendly and helpful.

Very approachable and knowledgeable and good use of examples to simplify the material.

In just one day Michael was able to teach a class of children how to craft their own personal stories and experiences into powerful and engaging speeches that resonate with an adult audience as well as with a younger audience. It is a marvellous way to help them increase self-confidence and in the process - almost without them even realising it - become natural speakers and excellent communicators.

Michael has a style of speaking which draws the audience into his world, captivates them and leaves them with lasting memories of some of the descriptive phrases he has used and the information he has included. He also has the ability to pass the skills he uses in his own speaking on to those he trains.

Very good rapport, attention to detail, individual support, positive atmosphere and encouragement - a great place for learning.

• Very great example; how to express yourself, how to be engaging and how to match body language with what is said.