Swami Kriyananda on Public Speaking — the Need for Creativity, Intuition, and Preparation

Swami Kriyananda with children, Assisi.

(Part 12 in our ongoing series, Swami Kriyananda on Art & the Artist.)

Six weeks before the launch of Superconscious Living in May, we started what we called the blitz tours. Six teams traveled to nine cities in the Bay Area, each presenting a seminar on a different topic: communities, relationships, organic gardening, education for children, spiritual healing, and building spiritual power against troubled times. In each city, we used the same venue on the same night of the week, in effect offering a six-week series of classes. Counting all the support staff, more than fifty people went on tour.

Each teacher specialized in one area, which meant giving nine talks on the same subject. For most of them, it would be their first teaching experience outside of the Retreat.

“How can I give the same talk every night,” one of the teachers asked Swamiji, “without becoming boring or being bored myself?”

“Whenever I speak,” Swamiji said, “I always act as if it were the first time I have ever spoken on the subject. I try to blank my mind of anything I have said before, so I can be creative in the moment. I meditate before the lecture, if possible in a private room in the hall where the program is happening. Then, as the people come in, I pray, ‘What do these people need to hear? What do You want to tell them?’ Instead of thinking about what I have to say, I ask God to tell me what they need to hear.

“At the end of the talk, I forget what I said, in order not to become fixed in that way of expressing it. That’s why, when people say afterward, ‘That was a good talk,’ I have to ask them what I said. I really don’t remember. So when I have to speak again on the same subject, I approach it fresh.

“Talk to those who are receptive. If someone is really listening, talk to that one person. Don’t try to talk to those who are resisting your point of view; work with those who are open.

“The best preparation is to mediate before your lecture, and pray to be an instrument for the Divine. But it is also very helpful to research and study your subject! I don’t prepare for my classes, and some people think that is the way to do it. But I have been lecturing for thirty years, and it took me a long time to get to this point. Dale Carnegie, in his course on public speaking, says you need an hour of material for a five minute talk. Even if you don’t use all that material, having so much that you could say gives authority to what you do say.

“If you use notes, still approach each class as if it were the first time you are giving the talk. Great actors say that their final performance, even of a long run, can often be their best, because they still find ways to improve on what they did before.

“Don’t concentrate on what you don’t know; think about what you do know. Just by virtue of the fact that you are living at Ananda, you have something you can offer.

“Don’t talk down to your audience. There are many very intelligent, sensitive people in the world who have thought deeply about many things. They may be less knowledgeable than you in some areas, because of your life at Ananda, but you still have to respect them for what they do know and what they have accomplished. Never act as if you are superior to them.

“Some people think that just because they are from Ananda they can get away with a slipshod performance, that their sweet vibration will carry them through. That is not true. You have to give yourself wholeheartedly. I give people a great deal when I teach—far more than they can absorb. Most people get about ten percent of what I say, but different people get different ten-percent portions. I have to give a lot so that everyone will get something.

“The sound of your voice is very important. Try to make your voice sweet and magnetic. If you hear it going away from that vibration, try to bring it back. Controlling and directing your voice will also center your consciousness.

“Fill the room with your vibrations. Send your energy into the farthest corners, all the way to the back wall.” (Swami Kriyananda: Lightbearer, 1979, pp. 132-134)