Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Funny thing about parables – the good ones get our inner violins tuned up, but I've yet to find one that brings in the whole orchestra. I'm still looking. Anyway, try this little tale, which is not - at first - about presentation skills.

Imagine you're lying in your bunk in a cruise ship, watching through the porthole as the waves go by. You're feeling the ship move under you, sometimes gently, sometimes violently. It's unpredictable. The course of the ship is erratic. Then there's a knock at your cabin door.

"Message for the captain."

"Wrong cabin. I'm a passenger. Go away."

The knock comes again, more urgently. "Message for the captain!"

Now you're annoyed. You swing out of the bunk, unhook the chain, remove the padlocks, unlock the door and yank it open. "Are you deaf? I'm a passenger."

The messenger sighs tiredly. He's met this on other ships. "You've forgotten, 'aven't ya?"

"I'm the captain?"

"Don’t' know ah ya do it, china plate, really ah don't, lettin' aw and sundry steer your ship for ya. Get up on the bridge and take charge, aw wite?"

You go pale. "But I don't want to go up there. You can't make me."

"Your cruise, china plate. Don't leather boot me, I'm just the bleedin' messenger, aren't I? Just doin' me corn on the bloomin' cob. Sign 'ere that ya received the message... Okay, 'ave a sugar and spice day… Sheesh."

The point, of course, is taking full charge of your life, steering it where you want it to go, no longer allowing others to run it for you.

What fascinates me is just how vividly it applies when you need the courage to speak to an audience. I tell the story to workshop participants to make the specific point that the average audience senses and is affected by how much a speaker has truly taken charge of his or her own life, knowing fully who they are. That far outweighs little considerations like the way you move your body and your voice, which - if you're avoiding the big decision - is like re-arranging the deck chairs while you wait for disaster.

Really. It's riskier staying in the cabin. I'm with the messenger on this one. Get up on the bridge quick smart aw wite? and take charge of your life. Remember, if the ship sinks, the captain goes down with it. That's tradition.

I wonder if your orchestra would keep playing.

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally-charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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