The Speaking Lesson from the Nanjing Museum | Darren LaCroix

The Speaking Lesson from the Nanjing Museum

By Darren LaCroix | Stage Time Articles

While visiting China during the past few weeks for two conferences and eight workshops, I did get a chance to do some sightseeing. It was exciting to see the Great Wall of China and many other amazing sights. One of my favorite places to visit is always a museum. I love museums because they are full of history that contains lessons and memorable analogies.

After a week and a half in China, I arrived in Nanjing and got a chance to go to the Nanjing Museum

which is right next to the conference hotel. My new friends, Sofy and James, guided and translated for me. As speakers, we should always be on the lookout for metaphors and analogies to help us make our teaching memorable. As the good book says, “Seek and ye shall find.” If you are looking, you will find many ideas in museums for a speech, an article, or maybe a video.

As I walked through the museum, one idea popped out at me when I saw a canoe unearthed from the Yan City Site, Changzhou City. What was fascinating was the way the canoe was dug out from a tree trunk. It was explained that they set part of the log on fire and intentionally charred one side of it. Once charred, it was then easier to dig it out. Hmm . . . They followed a process that worked and kept improving it. It reminded me of the process of creating a speech. You start with the big log and then carve out the parts you don’t need to create a powerful tool to transport your audience from where they are to where you want them to be.

That idea was interesting, but what really grabbed my attention was the pottery. Something about it really pulled me in. The more I gazed at the pottery display, the more it intrigued me. I think James and Sofy were wondering why I was so transfixed by the pottery. What I found fascinating was the combination of the actual, unearthed pieces of pottery with the display the museum had created to show them whole again. It allowed us to see the pottery as it once was. To me, it was actually much more interesting than if it had been whole.

I leaned in more and realized that every piece was broken, but each in their own unique way. They were puzzles, and someone from the museum had to put them together without a picture to go by.

I did not know what was forming in my head, but I knew something was bubbling up. It was a deep analogy about our audience and what we speakers do. Each time we take the stage, whether in front of five or 5,000, the people in our audience may be smiling and dressed up, but everyone in front of us is broken in one way or another.

Every pottery piece was broken, each in their own way.

It later dawned on me that at night, when the lights in the museum are off, the broken pieces of pottery would appear whole. Interesting.

So, what does the white part, created by the musuem, in each piece represent? Hope. It is our job, no matter what subject we are teaching, to build hope into every presentation. Hope fills in the gaps of brokenness. With hope, people can function at the top of their game despite their circumstances. Without hope, we do not function at our best.

We speakers are also broken. We are not perfect. When we are willing to admit that, our speaking and articles will resonate more deeply, and then we can become the hope. One of my most widely read articles is “The Depressed Motivational Speaker” Why? I believe it is because other speakers feel down at times and think they are the only ones who do. They think other motivational speakers are always up and happy. Don’t believe everything you see on FB. Many people only show their highlights. Broken pottery cannot relate to a perfect piece. In fact, I believe the way you are broken is the gift you can give to the world if you realize it. The people who can relate to the challenge that you overcame are the ones who need to hear your story.

We don’t see the hope. We speakers are the hope. We bring hope to help make people function and grow as if they were whole again. Three questions for you. Do you constantly seek new analogies and metaphors? Do you build stealth hope into every presentation? Do you see your brokenness as a gift to help others?

Think about it.

Add your thoughts below.

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