Filter Words Through Your Heart

Plan Your Opening & Closing

Charlie Rose is Senior Vice President and Dean at City Year. Charlie has helped build the organization into a national model for youth community service organizations. He speaks several times each month to City Year’s Core Members as well as to community organizations around the United States.
1. What are the ways you prepare yourself before speaking?
First I think very carefully about my audience and what I want to accomplish. Then once I have decided my purpose, I plan certain events I do every time I talk. I always do my stand-up/sit-down exercise. I ask the audience questions like stand up if you are an only child. Stand up if your name is consistently mispronounced. Stand up if you know someone fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. I go from comfortable questions to more serious ones. By the time I have asked 7 to 10 questions, the energy in the room has shifted. Then I read a poem I have written. I write all my own poems. By now I have “connected” to my audience and I am not nervous. I have also connected them to each other.

2. Do you get nervous?
Yes, I use my nervousness as adrenalin. Right before I go on I feel butterflies in my stomach … a restless energy. I know that to lead the group and present, I need this wound-up energy. My audience wants to feel that from me. I also have my rituals. I always carry a pocket angel reminding myself that we are all angels with one wing and in order to fly, we have to embrace each other. I am constantly giving away pocket angels. I tell myself, “It’s OK to be nervous.” I use this energy rather than deny it.

3. What else do you do to channel your nervousness?
I almost always know how I am going to close. I have what I call “closing” stories.
For example, I tell the story of what a Cherokee grandfather told to his grandson. There is a battle inside you between two wolves: the peace and love wolf and the greedy, arrogant and violent wolf. Which wolf wins? The one that wins is the one you feed. Feed the good wolf. On a more basic note I always set two alarm clocks. I want to sleep well and not worry that I will not get up in time and miss the flight. Funny thing is, I always wake up before the alarm goes off.
4. What advice would you give someone who is beginning to do many speeches?
First, speak your words from your heart so they go to each heart in your audience. Here’s the process I imagine. My eyes see the words on the paper, which then go to my brain. I filter the words through my heart before I open my mouth. I then speak from my soul. Second, pay attention to everyone in the room. If you see two people talking in the back by themselves, find a way to engage them. Consider everyone significant. For me, the wisdom is in the group. I am not the center stage.

Check out Charlie’s rap poem at: youtube: American Dream Poem by Charlie Rose at a City Year Event.

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