How to Learn Public Speaking
“Can anyone learn one poem to recite for the Mother’s day which is in two days? It’s an emergency. The boy who was scheduled to do it got sick,” said our teacher when I was in the 2nd grade.
A long silence. Nobody wanted to do it.
I said, “I can”.
Everybody looked at me as if I was crazy. I haven’t volunteered anything before but this time I got itchy. I was compelled to say yes.
My teacher said, “are you sure you can do it? The event is in two days and your classmate has been practicing it for 4 weeks.”
“No problem”, said I. I have memorized some poems before. I know what to do.
“OK, I’ll help you rehearse. Learn it tonight and tomorrow we will practice it together.”
The poem had 3 stanzas so I figured if I could learn one stanza in 5 minutes. It would take me 15 minutes. I was good at math.
The text was about the WWII and how a little boy went searching for his mom amidst flying bombs. Very dramatic.
This was the first time I clearly remember in my life I’ve heard the call. The call to take action, to help someone, to do work that matters, to take a risk.
Sure, I could mess everything up. I could forget the words. I was risking not only my own reputation but the reputation of my teacher too.
The event was in the grand hall of the school. Every student and teacher would be watching me when I was on stage. Scary stuff when you are 8 years old.
But the hope for success was greater than the fear of failure. I clearly remember this. I wanted to help. Nobody else had volunteered.
My teacher helped with my pronunciation and phrasing and breathing and acting. After classes were over we practiced this poem maybe 20 times the next day.
Of course I forgot the words of the remaining two stanzas. All I could see was my teacher’s face trying to help me remember the text. The silence in the room was deafening. I thought I will die right there.
I think I started to cry as I went off stage. That would have been my only natural reaction.
I swallowed more than I could chew. This was my first instance of public speaking.
It doesn’t matter now. I’ve heard the call and I said, “yes”.
Did you have an experience where you thought you would die but you didn’t?
HOW TO MAKE YOUR MOM SWEAT
My mom was sweating. She was pumping the bellows by hand of this little 19th century pipe organ.
This was a small wooden church, not far from the cottage where I spent my summers growing up. I was in the 6th or 7th grade then. My mom knew I was learning to play and sing in the art school so she decided to ask the local priest to let me try out this instrument.
The priest was nice to us and said, “yes”. But we didn’t know where the electricity could be turn on on the organ balcony. Like many ancient organs, this instrument had the possibility to be pumped manually. Sometimes it can be done with foot pedals, sometimes - with hand levers.
So mom helped the organ get air supply by pumping it while I was playing. For 2 hours. A good workout. She was happy, though.
When I finished playing, we went to thank the priest who apparently heard me practice. He asked, “How long will you be around?”
“About a month. Until the end of summer vacation,” said my mom.
“We have no regular organist for our church services. Would you like to play for the anniversary Mass next Sunday?”, asked he.
I agreed. We spent the remaining days of the week playing this organ. My mom got stronger and stronger from pumping every day.
I practiced several hymns I found in the hymnal. They were without chords so I had to supply the harmony myself. I thought it sounded OK.
When the Sunday came I was very nervous. This was my first church service ever. The priest talked really soft and didn’t hear the cue for the Sanctus part. So I missed it.
I was so ashamed but the priest was happy. Afterwards I was happy too. I chose to do something scary, something which wasn’t in my comfort zone and I didn’t die. Oh, and I got paid too.
When was the last time you will step out of your comfort zone?
HOW TO AVOID COMPLAINS IN YOUR COACHING
“It’s easy. I’ll show teach you how to sing,” I told to my mom and aunt while we were walking through the field of crops on our way to the lake on a hot summer day. I was 13.
My mom couldn’t sing. As far as I knew she couldn’t even whistle. She was a graphic artists and they are not particularly musically trained. My aunt was even worse, I think. She could create an impressive piece of lithography but she could not hold the melody even while singing with somebody else.
Both of them were hesitant at first. My aunt said, “forget it. I can’t sing in tune.” My mom was more supportive and willing to give it a try.
At that time I didn’t know many songs. In fact, I hardly remembered any. But I knew how to sing the alto part of Stanislaw Moniuzsko’s Kyrie from his Mass. He was one of the most important Polish Romantic composers and the creator of the first Polish national opera “Halka”. We’ve been learning his Mass in the school’s choir.
Our entire journey through the crop fields lasted maybe a couple of hours so I had plenty of time to get my mom and aunt bored with my voice.
But they didn’t. As we were walking, I would repeat small fragments asked them to repeat after me. They couldn’t do any of this and I don’t think they learned anything back then. But we had a great time. I think even to this day they still remember their first singing lesson with me.
This was my first experience as coach. I didn’t do this for money so they couldn’t complain of the results.
Fast forward some 30 years and now they both sing in a church choir. My mom has this gentle soprano voice without any vibrato which is pretty unusual for seniors of her age. And their singing career started when I raised the hand and showed them I cared.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO SLEEP LIKE A BABY
Stormy wind blew in my face as I was standing with 20 kilos of backpack waiting for the bus. My aunt recommended I go to the art camp in the tiny village of Inkunai and my mom didn’t resist this idea. She thought, though, I was too young to travel on my own. I was 17.
I didn’t know almost anything about this camp and was excited to find out. Perhaps I will meet new friends? Perhaps I will learn new skills? Everything was possible. The smell of opportunity was up in the air.
As the weather was bad, though, I had to endure heavy rain for a couple of hours before the bus arrived. It took me to the nearest town Sirvintos which was about 20 kilometers away. Then I waited for a larger bus and drove another 30 kilometers to a larger town Ukmerge.
But the camp was still far away. I reached the closest town Anyksciai to this camp which was 17 kilometers from Inkunai. In the bus station I found out that the camp has already started 3 days ago and that nobody is going to come to pick me up.
No worries. I felt confident I could find it on my own. This was well before the days of GPS and Google maps, of course. But I could ask some people at the bus station how to get there, right?
A woman told me that a bus will come in about 3 hours which would take me almost to the exact place. Then I would just need to walk maybe a kilometer or two through the woods to find the camp.
I had a dilemma in my head: to wait for a safe choice with the bus or to take a risk, maybe have an adventure?
I thought 3 hours is a long time to wait and perhaps I could go there on foot. I would follow the directions on the road and everything would be OK. I even hoped to find a shortcut which would make my journey quicker.
So I started walking and walking, asking some people I met on the road if I’m in the right direction. Apparently I was. But my backpack was heavy and got heavier with each passing kilometer.
Luckily I had a couple of bottles of water with me to refresh myself, otherwise those 17 kilometers would have been very strenuous indeed.
At one point towards the end of my journey, I met 5 men when the road went through the wooded area. They appeared like hunters - had ammunition, rifles, knives, even axes.
They were nice to me although one could easily get scared by their appearance. I asked them where Inkunai were.
It was getting dark and they told me I still had some 5 kilometers to go through the woods. I had no other choice but to continue.
Inkunai were situated on the other side of the river, so I first had to find a bridge. It was getting pitch dark. Wild beasts were looking at me as I went through their surroundings.
I got really nervous but kept going. What else was there to do?
The last kilometer or so was the most difficult. I went through the wood in complete darkness, following only some dim moonlight which sometimes appeared through the clouds.
Finally I saw an opening, a little wooden church and a house. Somebody greeted me and took me in. There were many young people in the room.
I had arrived at the art camp. Everybody was looking at me as if they saw a ghost. I was that exhausted. They gave me something to drink and a light meal and I went to sleep in the place they got for me.
I slept like a baby that night - I woke up and cried every couple of hours.
As I’m writing this story now, I know this was the first time in my life I had traveled into the unknown by myself. Nobody was there for me, I was on my own.
After this camp, the fear of the unknown was much easier to overcome. Whenever I face a situation where I could be taking some serious risks, I remind myself of what I have done when I was 17.
HOW TO SEE WHEN YOU WALK AMONG THE BLIND
I couldn’t believe why nobody had seen this flier before. I was standing in one of the practice rooms at the Music Academy and holding in my hand the brochure about the upcoming 2000 International Organ Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden.
It was an early spring and Ausra and I would be graduating this year to become young professional organists. I started beginning to worry about what we will do next.
And here it was - our chance to see a bigger world, to meet open-minded people from across the globe and to get hands-on experience in our field.
Somebody at the Music Academy had received this flier and brought it to rest behind the glass in the cabinet. Nobody had noticed it before, nobody told the students about it. Nobody cared.
But not me. I had to do something about it. What did I have to lose?
I wrote an email from Ausra and myself to Gothenburg indicating we were interested in participating at the Academy this year but basically asking for financial support because we were poor students from a poor country.
Luckily for us the Nordic countries were really helping out Lithuania at that time because we regained our independence just 10 years before.
One day we received an email from them saying they are inviting us to the Academy in the summer, waiving our participation fee, and even giving us a stipend.
Some luck at lust! Was it luck? Probably not. We worked for this opportunity, we asked for it, and we received it.
Nobody else from the Music Academy was interested, curious, or even aware that this summer Academy even exist. Everyone was walking blind there.
Around the time the largest pipe organ in Lithuania which was standing at the Vilnius University St. John’s church was being resurrected for a new life. I became curious about it and started to visit the place often.
One day the organ builder Rimantas Gucas who was leading this organ reconstruction project introduced me to his friend from Sweden, Göran Grahn, an organ expert, well-known in his field in Europe. He said that he heard from the organizers of the Gothenburg Academy there were a couple of Lithuanians who will be participating a few months later.
That’s how it all began for us. All it took for me was to ask, all it took was to walk with open eyes for new possibilities.
Curiosity. It’s essential skill if you want to succeed in life.
HOW NOT TO END UP AT THE SUPERMARKET
I was depressed. I thought I will not find a decent way how to pay the bills.
Ausra and I have just returned from our Doctoral studies in the US and the Rector of Music Academy had lied to us about his intention to hire us as organ professors.
It seemed our studies were all for nothing. Now we have returned home and we’ll have to work as organists at some crappy church with a crappy priest for the rest of our lives. Or worse - become cashiers at the grocery store.
All I ever wanted was to travel the world, play recitals on wonderful organs and teach students. Now that the Music Academy didn’t want us, it seemed it was all over. The Rector even said to us that we can’t compete with their musicologists.
Oh, and on top of that, a leading music journal in the country which was the target of any researcher in the music field didn’t accept my article for publication.
Not only they were shutting the doors for us at the academic world but the wider research community was also not willing to take us in.
But one day an idea came to my head. Can I perhaps try to market myself as an organist on the Internet?
I’ve seen people do that in many areas online. But nobody was doing it in the organ playing niche. This was an unheard of in my world, right?
But I thought it’s got to be a way to do some basic marketing for a person in any field without first asking permission from the Academy or the research journals.
I became obsessed with this idea and one day in early 2011 typed “Article Marketing” into Google.
That’s when my online journey began. I started writing articles about how to play the organ and submitting them to ezinearticles.com which was the largest article directory online.
One by one my email subscribers came to me asking for help. And I helped them and I sometimes asked for money in return. That’s basically all I did back then.
All it took was a couple of rejections, a threat to end up at the supermarket, and a will to survive.
Dr. Vidas Pinkevicius is the creator of Vidas Blog Academy where he teaches people to empower themselves one post at a time. If you want to become a successful blogger, download his free PDF report "Overcoming 12 Challenges Beginner Bloggers Face".