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Illusion Of The First Time: Keys To Giving A Truly “Live” Performance

Illusion Of The First Time: Keys To Giving A Truly “Live” Performance
Copyright © 2004 Bill Lampton Ph.D.
Championship Communication

When I teach presentation skills to professional people–either
in a seminar or through my personal coaching–I explain the
long-standing theatre phrase, “Illusion of the First Time.”
Here’s the meaning: When an actor performs in a play for the
10th, 100th or 1,000th time, he or she must create the illusion
that this is the first time the actor has said these words, used
these gestures and facial expressions or thought these thoughts.
Superlative actors create this response, no matter how many
times they repeat what they have done previously.

Singers and other musical performers display this freshness,
too. Recently, I watched piano genius Marty Henne perform his
one-hour show, featuring marvelous music and his informative
commentary about George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and
other musical giants. Check his Web site:


Marty and I were traveling together aboard the Regatta, a
luxury ship on the Oceania Cruise Line. Marty was the featured
entertainer, and I was the Special Enrichment Lecturer.

Now, back to Marty’s show. I had attended the same show when
Marty performed on the Radisson Diamond Cruise Ship, where I
was speaking also, fifteen months previously. Although Marty’s
act on the Regatta was practically the same word-for-word as
what I had heard more than a year ago on the Diamond, the
Regatta audience felt that his words, nonverbal communication
and songs were spontaneous. Nothing about his performance
appeared canned or choreographed. Unquestionably, he was
“in the moment,” “live and in person.”

At breakfast the next morning, Marty and I agreed that speakers
must establish the same “it’s happening now for the first time”
liveliness. Keep this in mind next time you face an audience,
especially when you are delivering a message you have given
previously. The message may be old to you, yet remember that
it is totally new for these listeners–and must appear new.
They will quit listening if they sense a rerun, yet will remain
highly attentive when you speak energetically, with the same
zest you would use in sharing good news with a close friend.

How do you achieve this aura of freshness? Consider these six

· Select a topic that captivates you, one you will continue
to be excited about after hours of preparation.

· Do not memorize your speech. Memorization will make you
sound like a reciter, rather than an individual who wants
to share his or her thoughts convincingly.

· Focus on remembering and sharing key words and major points.
The exact wording is not all that important. Your listeners
will want to get the impression you are speaking “off the
cuff,” although you have prepared thoroughly.

· Update and improve your material, especially with your
most-repeated speech. Find fresh illustrations and stories,
refine your signature story and quote something you read in
the morning newspaper that relates to your theme. Refer to
a conversation you had with a convention attendee at
breakfast. Last-minute additions assure listeners that
you and your topic are vibrant.

· Take risks that challenge you to be more spontaneous and
lively. For example: Walk into the audience like a game
show emcee would, ask questions and respond to them. Use
a hand-held microphone, so everyone in the room can hear
what participants say.

· Picture yourself having a conversation with an individual,
and speak like that to your audience–which is nothing more
than a collection of individuals. Marty Henne made this
statement during our breakfast conversation, and I agree.

By following these guidelines, you will give your audiences the
“illusion of the first time” that they expect, deserve and will

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., “Helps You Finish in First Place!”
He has shared his expertise in communication, motivation,
customer service and sales with a diverse client list.
He wrote a popular book: The Complete Communicator:
Change Your Communication, Change Your Life!
Visit his Web site: http://www.ChampionshipCommunication.com
Call Dr. Bill Lampton at 770-534-3425 or 800-393-0114.
E-mail him: mailto:drbill@ChampionshipCommunication.com