Go from a Good Speaker to a Great Speaker with These 5 Lessons from ‘Hamilton’ with Carol Cox: Podcast Ep. 336

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This episode airs the week of our 4th of July holiday in the United States, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to re-air one of my favorite episodes.

If you want to go from being a good speaker to a great one, there are key elements to infuse into your content and delivery.

Three years ago, during the July 4th holiday weekend of 2020, I was at home with not much to do since we were all still in the throes of the COVID-19 social distancing. 

Luckily, that weekend, “Hamilton: The Musical” (filmed from the Broadway production) aired on Disney+.

I was instantly transfixed. 

I knew I would like the play, but didn’t realize I was going to love it. 

In this episode, I talk about “Hamilton” the play and the production and what we can learn from it as speakers.

Why study the play? 

After all, as speakers, we’re not acting in a play or singing in a musical. We’re speaking to grow our audiences, build our businesses, generate leads, get paid.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of so-so and boring presentations.

Your presentations shouldn’t be flat – they can be fun and engaging and they should be layered – and speak to universal themes.

In this episode, I share what I saw as I watched “Hamilton” as well as what I learned from reading the amazing book called “Hamilton: The Revolution” that gives behind the scenes of the creation and production of the musical.

You can listen to this episode whether you’ve seen Hamilton or not. If you haven’t, this episode will hopefully inspire you to watch it!

(This episode originally aired in November 2020 as episode 197. It’s a must-listen!)

 

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com.

Links:

Show notes at https://www.speakingyourbrand.com/336/

Book “Hamilton: The Revolution” = https://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Revolution-Lin-Manuel-Miranda/dp/1455539740/ 

Connect with Carol on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carolcox

Related Podcast Episodes:

 

336-SYB-Best_of_-_Lesssons_from_Hamilton.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

336-SYB-Best_of_-_Lesssons_from_Hamilton.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Carol Cox:
Listen in to hear what we can learn as speakers from Hamilton, the play and the production on this episode of The Speaking Your Brand podcast. More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses, running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker, I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is speaking your brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience. Three years ago, it was the July 4th holiday weekend of 2020, and probably like you, I was at home with not much to do since we were all still in the throes of the Covid 19 pandemic and social distancing. Fortunately, that weekend, Hamilton the musical, which had been filmed from the Broadway production, aired on Disney+. I was instantly transfixed. I knew I would like the play, but I didn’t realize I was going to love it. And since then, I have watched it probably about five more times and I’ve listened to the soundtrack. I don’t even know how many times. I decided to re-air this episode that originally aired in November 2020 because it’s our 4th of July holiday here in the United States this week. And also, as I went back to listen to this episode, I discovered how many of the lessons that I took from Hamilton, the musical that I had shared with you as speakers, still apply today, but really are the foundation of all the things we do here at speaking your brand when we work with our clients.

Carol Cox:
Whether you’ve seen Hamilton the Musical live or on TV, I know you’re going to be inspired by the lessons that I pull and also hopefully you’ll be inspired to go and watch it if you haven’t yet. Now here’s the original episode. Hello and welcome to the Speaking Your Brand podcast. I’m your host, Carol Cox. We are continuing our series on storytelling, and I am so excited for today’s episode. I’ve been wanting to do this now for a few months, so I’m glad to finally have the opportunity. And this episode is airing on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, which is Election Day in the United States. I thought it was very fitting to talk about Hamilton, the musical and the production and what we can learn from it as speakers on this Election Day. Now, like many of you, perhaps, I watched Hamilton on Disney+ the July 4th weekend. It came out and I was instantly transfixed. I knew I was going to like it based on the reviews and what some friends of mine who had seen it in New York had told me. But I didn’t realize that I was going to fall in love with it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see it live myself on Broadway, which I’m sure was an even much more immersive experience than watching it on TV.

Carol Cox:
But the movie version does not disappoint at all. You can listen to this episode whether you’ve seen Hamilton or not, and if you haven’t, I’m hoping that this episode will inspire you to go and watch it. Why study Hamilton the play at all? After all, speakers were not acting in a play and were not singing in a musical. We’re speaking to grow our audiences, to build our businesses, to generate leads, to get paid to position ourselves as thought leaders. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of so-so and boring presentations, whether I’ve been in person at conferences, and especially this year virtually. Now, your presentation should not be flat and so-so and boring. They can be fun and engaging and they should be layered and they should speak to universal themes. So in this episode I’m going to share what I saw as I watched Hamilton as well as what I learned from reading an amazing book called Hamilton The Revolution that gives behind the scenes of the creation and the production of the musical. There’s a link in the show notes to this book that you can purchase. I absolutely love it. It is like a hardback book of a like a larger size. It has articles about the play in the production as well as the song lyrics to every single song.

Carol Cox:
Footnotes regarding the song. It is absolutely incredible. So if you love the play, you’re going to love the book as well. So I’m going to go through and share what I learned from this that we can apply as speakers. And at the end of the episode I’m going to share my favorite part of the play. And I would love to know what your favorite part or your favorite song or your favorite character is. You can email me Carol, at speaking your brand.com. You can also find me primarily on LinkedIn and I’m a little bit on Instagram and there’s links in the show notes to those. Now, if you’re brand new to the Speaking Your Brand podcast and we’re intrigued by this topic, Welcome. I’m so glad that you’re here. We help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our Mission. Is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. And as you hear, as we go through the episode about Hamilton, what it is that our mission is as speaking your brand about stories and visibility and challenging the status quo. Very much ties in to Hamilton, the man, the founding father and Hamilton the Musical. I wish I could include clips from the songs, but, you know, copyright.

Carol Cox:
So I cannot. So you’ll just have to imagine them in your head. Or you can find the Hamilton album on Spotify and Apple Music. I purchased it in iTunes and I listened to it every week or maybe every few days, and different songs take up space in my mind on different days. Kind of just depends on what it is. But I absolutely love the soundtrack and I listen to it all the time. And so because of listening to the soundtrack and watching the play and reading the book, I have pages and pages of notes, and I’m going to distill it down to the five key areas I think are most useful for us that we can learn from as speakers and as thought leaders. The first area is around structure and story elements. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while or if you’ve worked with us, you know what a big proponent we are of having structure to your presentations, having structure to your signature talk, whether you’re doing it for lead generation, for brand awareness, you’re doing a keynote style talk or you’re doing a TEDx style talk, you need to have a very clear structure and that there are certain story elements that you can add to your presentations, to your speeches to make them much more engaging and connect with the audience. So the beauty of Hamilton the Musical is that there’s two threads that run through it.

Carol Cox:
There is the History of the American Revolution with Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers, and of course, George Washington and Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson and all of those key players John Adams, James Madison, all of them in the history of the American Revolution. The play starts in 1776 and ends in 1804. So that key time period. So that’s the main thread, the history. But the other thread in the play is that it’s a hip hop musical and now looking back, it seems so incredibly right. Like you watch the play and you listen to the songs and you’re thinking, Well, of course, how could it be anything but this? But you know that that was definitely not the case. I don’t believe there’s ever been a hip hop musical on Broadway. And in that book that I referenced, Lin-Manuel Miranda says that both of these things, both the American Revolution and this play, being a hip hop musical, were, quote, inevitable in retrospect but improbable in the beginning. Inevitable in retrospect, improbable in the beginning. So these two threads that they’re tying through throughout the entire story. But here’s what makes the play so incredibly powerful is that the story the play is not a list of events on a historical timeline. They’re not just doing a linear sequence. Okay, this happened, then this happened, then this happened in the history of the American Revolution.

Carol Cox:
Instead, it’s an emotional journey that Hamilton and the other key players make along the way during these years as they’re learning about themselves, about each other and about what it takes to actually found a country. So every single element in the show at every moment serves the story. In the book that I referenced that talks about the behind the scenes Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was the creator of the play and wrote the songs and the lyrics for it in collaboration with the songwriters and composers and of course everyone else who was involved in putting it together. But he talks about how he had to cut some songs. So there were songs that he wrote and that he thought would would be in the play, but he would end up having to cut them because it just it would stop the action in the tracks or that the audience was expecting to hear something else next. Like they needed a resolution to what had just happened. And by adding a song in between, it was disrupting that flow. So even though he had worked hard on these songs, he had to cut them. And he then he would take elements of what he had cut and combine it into that previous song or into another song so that he didn’t lose what he needed, that song, that original song to do, but he didn’t need it in its entirety. And by doing that, he made the play the Musical that much more cohesive.

Carol Cox:
And I would argue that much more creative. Sometimes it’s the cutting. Leaving those little bit of gaps is what makes things interesting. And so a lot of times with our audiences as speakers, we want to tell them everything and we feel like we have to provide them with all the information that we know and we have to kind of brain dump everything that we’ve learned over the past five, ten, 15, 20 years and give it all to them. But we can’t do that. It’s not possible for them to take that in. Plus, by cutting and combining, we’re going to make a stronger case for what it is that we’re presenting to them and make it much more cohesive. The other thing is that besides the aspect of cutting and combining, you don’t necessarily want to tell the audience everything. You want to leave it to them to decide for themselves. A little bit of mystery, a little bit of them having to put the puzzle pieces together. And in the book about the play, they talk about how in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, that Shakespeare never tells the audience in the play whether Hamlet was really crazy, was really mentally ill, or was just pretending all along. Shakespeare left it to the audience to decide how they wanted to perceive Hamlet and Hamlet. And Lin-Manuel Miranda does some of the same things within Hamilton.

Carol Cox:
The play, the characters, especially Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, are the two main characters. There is a little bit of mystery around some of their motivations, around some of the things that they ended up doing, especially the duel at the end. And I don’t feel like I’m giving away a spoiler because if you especially if you’re an American and you know enough about American history from studying in school that there is a duel between Hamilton and Burr and Hamilton ended up being shot by Burr and that’s how he ended up dying. And so but in the play, there’s a little bit of a mystery about what the motivations were and why that ended up happening the way that it was. And so it leaves us, the audience, to decide how we want to interpret it, how we want to see those two characters. The other story elements and structure to consider when we’re creating our own presentations and this is what fantastic plays like Hamilton and other plays and movies and TV shows and novels do, is they use story elements like foreshadowing. So they mention something. They don’t describe it completely. They mention something, and then they’ll come back to it later. They use repetition, so repeating certain phrases, repeating certain certain words, repeating certain concepts, not in a didactic way where it becomes like, okay, you don’t have to hear this again. But repetition in the sense of like a a turn of phrase or something that you keep coming back to in Hamilton, the play, they do this a lot with the lyrics of their songs and even the the melodies of the songs will they’ll have one song where it combines like 3 or 4 other songs that we’ve already heard.

Carol Cox:
It’s it’s absolutely brilliant. The other thing to use is callbacks. Comedians use this a lot where in their set they’ll have a series of jokes and then towards the end of the set, their last joke will tie back to whatever their beginning story, their beginning joke was. So that’s a callback and plays and and movies and novels will do that as well. And you can do that within your own presentations where at the end of your presentation have a callback reference what you talked about in your opening. Another story element is contrast. So within the musical there’ll be an upbeat song and that will be followed by a slower song, maybe even a sadder song. But right after that sad song, then it will be another upbeat song. And you would think, Well, there was just a sad song like, We can’t just go back and have something be fun and lively again. But you have to because you have to give your audience that release. You have to release that tension for them. You can’t just keep it heavy the entire time. So that’s where those comedic breaks, having your audience laugh.

Carol Cox:
Humor is such a great element of social bonding, so having a funny gif on your slides or a funny meme, something that you can have the audience just kind of laugh together and all that. What I’m talking about applies virtually on Zoom and on webinars as well, but getting them to laugh together, having those comedic breaks can really connect you with your the audience and the audience with each other. Another story element. Is silence. In pauses. And this can be hard when we’re speaking because we have so much to say and we’re so excited to share it. Hand raised here because I am very guilty of this, but slowing down. Giving the audience a moment to process, to think. To wonder, to reflect can be really powerful. And in the play. Hamilton The character does this at the very end where all of a sudden. Everything slows down where everything had been so fast paced up until that moment. The other brilliant aspect of Hamilton, the play that you can use in your own presentations as well is cultural references. You can think of them like Easter eggs. This term Easter eggs came from video games where the video game creators would put like little surprises inside the video game. So like, you would be playing the video game and on your screen you would see like this little like character or like little treasure or something would pop up that would be unexpected.

Carol Cox:
It really wasn’t part of the gameplay, so you didn’t need it to play the game. But they started calling it Easter eggs because then if you found it and no one else had found it yet in that game, like you could, you know, take credit for that. And so you can think of cultural references that you apply in your presentations to being something like these Easter eggs, where you’re kind of paying homage to certain things. You’re like letting the audience know that you and your audience are in on it. Like you have the same cultural references that the audience does. It also allows you to invite a diverse group of people into the conversation. So make cultural references to things that are going on currently, things that maybe, you know, TV shows, movies, things that are kind of in the zeitgeist that your audience would find interesting also. Hamilton The play fuses different styles and different traditions together, and the song lyrics will often reference hip hop and rap legends like take certain well known phrases from some rap songs or some hip hop songs and put them into the lyrics themselves. Again, it’s kind of like that wink to the audience. So that was key area number one, which is structure and story elements. So really think about having the structure of your presentation, kind of that thread of it. In Hamilton’s case, it was the history of the American Revolution and it being a hip hop musical, it had a dual thread where it was kind of intertwining those two things.

Carol Cox:
So if you want to do that, that is absolutely incredible. But you want to at least have one really strong thread and have everything hang off of that because then everything that you do in your presentation, every single element, every single story, every single client example, every single point that you’re making should serve that thread that runs through your entire presentation. This is what we did when we worked with our speakers for the virtual summit that we hosted in October is that they had about ten minutes to do their Ted style talk, so they needed a really tight structure, so they found their through line, their thread and everything had to hang off of that and then use these different story elements like repetition, callbacks, contrast, comedic breaks, silences and pauses. Give the audience a little bit of mystery as well. Key area number two is around the importance of who is telling the story and who tells your story. As Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, the play said in the book, History is entirely created by the person who tells the story. Now, I have a master’s degree in history abd all but dissertation, almost a PhD in history. I love history. I’ve studied it for years and it was so fascinating for me, I think, Why? Why I fell in love with history when I was young is that I got to hear stories about what had happened to real people, but I got to read them from different perspectives.

Carol Cox:
And for a long time, of course, women were barely in the stories and they certainly were not written. They certainly were not written by women, and women were not central actors. They weren’t central agents within the stories. And then the shift happened in the 1970s and 1980s where history started to change from the focus of kind of the great man of history, the leaders, the politicians, the generals, and then shifted to social history and cultural history looking at, quote unquote, everyday people. And of course, then women were 50% of that. So that’s really what made me fall in love with history and also recognizing the importance of women’s stories and women’s visibility in women’s voices within that history, not only being present in those stories and that history, but also being the ones who are telling that story. And in the book, Lin-Manuel Miranda talks about how powerful stories are because they have the potential to inspire and to change the world, and that if you’re outside the system, you see things differently. And I’ve talked about this on the podcast and at my in my summit speech and in a webinar we did a few months ago that as women, and especially if you’re a black woman or a woman of color, we as women are outside the system, the patriarchal system.

Carol Cox:
So we see things differently. We can see things that those who the system is made for and by cannot see. It’s kind of like seeing the matrix, we can see the structure. And so as that, we have such an incredible opportunity to provide that viewpoint, that perspective to our audiences, to share that story to. Share our story, the share, the story, whether it’s a personal story or the story about our industry, the type of business that we do, the type of work that we do is sharing that from that perspective because it’s different than the way things have normally been done. Hamilton himself, Alexander Hamilton, the man, he was an immigrant from a Caribbean island. And so because he was outside the system as an immigrant, he could see how 13 colonies could become a nation. And also. Hamilton the musical itself, the play is outside the system. It’s a hip hop musical which has never happened before. And it could see things differently. It had all of the main male characters are black men, and of course, America’s founding fathers were decidedly not black men. They were white men, white property men. And many of them, most of them were slaveholders as well. But Hamilton, the musical, the play, decided to completely invert that and have all those main characters played by black men.

Carol Cox:
And then most of the women are black women or women of color, as are most of the ensemble cast as well. And as you start watching it, you do kind of take like a little bit of a start. But then as it’s going on, you’re like, Well, of course, it just seems so natural. I will say this as my one aside about Hamilton the musical is that I appreciate that, that there are strong female characters within the musical. Of course, I would love to have had them have even more airtime than they got, but here’s what I would love. I would love to see a play. It could be a musical or not about whether it’s the revolution or the founding of our country, or another time period where women are playing all of the characters. Even if the original person was a man, women were playing all the characters from their perspective. And guess what? Both men and women go to see the play, and so many times when something is done by women, like whether it’s women’s literature or women’s movies or even women’s plays, it’s like, Oh, that’s for women to watch. Like, you know, maybe a few men would go, but not that many would go, No, no, no. Like, I want the equivalent of Hamilton, the musical done by women with women where everyone is excited to go watch it. Okay, that’s my aside. So then the other aspect of this idea of who is telling the story is you have the opportunity and privilege to tell your own story.

Carol Cox:
And that’s what we saw with our summit speakers, is that by telling their own story, being the ones who shaped it, that it was such a transformative process for them working on that and understanding themselves better. And then the transformative process that also occurred for those who were listening, for those who were watching on the other side. So that was key area number two, which is this idea of the importance of who is telling the story and who tells your story. Key area number three, it takes time to create something meaningful and it takes a lot of iterations and evolutions to get it to where you want it to go or to get it to that state where people consume it, People watch it, people listen to it and they think, Oh my gosh, this is absolutely incredible. The beginning of Hamilton. The musical started in 2009 at the White House when Lin Manuel Miranda did perform the opening song to President Obama. So it was him. And then the I don’t know if it was the composer or the whoever is doing the music part. Maybe it’s the conductor or probably the composer. Did the the opening song. That’s it. Just the opening song called Alexander Hamilton. That was in 2009 and then continued to work on it in 2012.

Carol Cox:
So three years later, the play premiered at the Lincoln Center. I believe it may have been only Act one of the plays a two act play only act one. Then in 2014, two years after that, it started in a smaller theater. So a well known theater, but still a smaller theater, not on Broadway yet. So that was in 2014. So now, five years later, from the original White House opening song in 2009, then a year later, 2015 is when it debuted on Broadway. So it was six years between the start of that. And of course, this is a huge production, you know, so many different moving parts, lots of people involved. But throughout that time there were so many iterations from the Lincoln Center and even the smaller theater. In 2014, there were songs that were in there that ended up getting cut when it went to Broadway. So there wasn’t like it was kind of done in one moment of time, and then it never changed after that. It kept evolving and it kept adjusting. Dean, based on the feedback they were getting and because they wanted to make it even better than it was. So for your presentations and for your speaking and for your signature talk the first time or the first couple of times that you give it, it’s not going to be nearly as good as when you give it 5 or 10 times.

Carol Cox:
Now, that doesn’t mean that every single time has to be scripted, like a play where you know every single word that you’re going to say. But the more that you start doing it and you start saying it to people, the more comfortable you’re going to get with it, the more you’re going to be able to have fun with it, kind of tweak it as you go, see what the audience is responding to and adjust on the fly. And that happens because you have a signature talk. You have something that you can keep going back to and refining and again, adjusting for different audiences, pulling out different stories or examples based on who you’re talking to. But the foundation, that structure is the same so that you’re not constantly reinventing it. That’s what I see with so many people is that they create new presentations all the time on topics that are related but that are different. So it requires them to do all of this work so they never really nail one particular presentation. So you want to get to the point where you have your signature talk, you have your foundation, you know what your message is. You know who you want to reach. You know those stories that are so pivotal, that are so impactful on the audience. And then you can deliver them with clarity and with confidence. So that was key. Area number three is that it takes time to create something meaningful and it takes a lot of iterations.

Carol Cox:
But start start with your minimum viable product. Start with your minimum viable presentation, your minimum viable message, start somewhere, put it out into the world. That is the only way you’re going to be able to adjust it. If it stays in your head, it’s never going to evolve. Key area number four Bring your complete and total self to the stage. That is from Leslie Odom Jr, who is the actor who plays Aaron Burr in the original cast. He said in the book, Bring all of your joy, your rage, your pain, your capacity for fun, bring it all to the stage, and that every night that he would perform, it would always be a little different because every audience was different. So he would react to the audience and he would bring whatever was going on with himself into the character at that particular night. In order to do this, you have to be vulnerable and you have to be willing to be honest with yourself and to let that honesty and vulnerability shine through to the audience. You have to be willing to take off the armor to take off the facade that so many of us wear and so many of us wear it for very good reason to protect ourselves. But you have to be willing to take that off to have an emotional connection with your audience.

Carol Cox:
Back in early August, I did a podcast episode called My Journey as a Thought Leader. And originally what I was going to do was talk about different ways. I’ve been a thought leader over my career, over the past 15, 20 years, and what I’ve learned from that. And as I was working on the episode, I mean, it was fine and it was all true, but it just didn’t feel vulnerable, just didn’t feel real. And I went for a long walk and I kind of thought about that early August, my birthday was coming up, and it was the 25 year anniversary of when my father was had passed away and when I was in college. And so all these kind of things were going on in my mind and a lot of emotions. So I decided to talk about that instead on the podcast. And it was really honest and it was really vulnerable and it was scary to do it, but I’m so glad I did because of the impact, because of the reaction that I got from people. And I’ll include a link to that episode in the show notes if you haven’t listened to that. But that’s what Leslie Odom Jr is talking about, bringing that honesty and that vulnerability, your joy, your pain, your capacity for fun, all of those depths. Bring that in your presentations. The other aspect of this about bringing your complete and total self to the stage.

Carol Cox:
And again, this can be virtual stage, it could be podcast interviews, whatever it happens to be Is that Leslie Odom’s character, Aaron Burr, the Aaron Burr, the man, is that he won’t take a public stand. There’s a song, the lyrics go, No one knows what you’re against or what you’re for because he will never tell anyone. Like Hamilton is an open book. He says exactly what he feels on certain issues. Burr will not. He kind of wants to blow with the wind. And at the end, that ends up not serving him because people don’t quite trust him because they don’t know where he stands. And if I think back to the summer with the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd and the murder of Breonna Taylor, and thinking about how many white women were very uncertain about taking a public stand. They weren’t sure what to do on social media, on their podcast and their email newsletters and so on. And when Diane Diaz and I are my lead speaking coach, when we did our episode right after that in early June on the work of anti-racism as white women, I knew that I wanted to take a public stand, that I needed to take a public stand because I knew that that’s what I was looking for, for the other people that I follow, the other people that are in my business community, because I wanted for people to know what I’m against and what I’m for.

Carol Cox:
So the other aspect of bringing your complete and total self to the stage is that perfect is boring. All of these characters in Hamilton, the play have character flaws. Hamilton himself has character flaws, and they get shown throughout the play. He’s not some kind of mythical founding father who has never had any problems. And I think that’s why also. Hamilton the musical has been so successful and people have loved it so much, is that we get to see our founding fathers in a in a new light. We get a chance to see them as kind of like regular people, like they’re drinking, they’re joking with their friends, they’re interested in the ladies, and they have foibles, they have character flaws. And by seeing that, then it allows us as the audience to say, Well, I’m flawed too, and I’m human too, and that’s okay. We are all like that, and I can still rise from my failures or I can learn lessons from my failures and I can get past them. And this reminds me because just a few days ago, as I’m recording this episode, I did a podcast interview on Carrie Northeastern’s podcast and she had been a client back in 2017, so like three years ago and she has a podcast now. So she invited me to come on the podcast to talk about speaking engagements and using them for lead generation and virtual presentations and all of that.

Carol Cox:
And then she said that when she first had heard me on someone else’s podcast in early 2017, that I seemed so perfect and so expert at speaking. And what I did, that she was intimidated to come to approach me and to hire me because she thought that why would I want to help her? I mean, it seems crazy, right? Because of course I want to help her. Like that’s why I’m here. I know we can’t all have strengths and skills and everything, but it’s so interesting that I don’t want you as the listener. I don’t want my clients to feel like I’m perfect. You know, I’m flawed. I, you know, don’t do things perfectly. I make mistakes. I have lessons that I’ve learned over the years personally and professionally, which is why I’m trying to share more of those on the podcast to open that up. And as my friend Dr. Laura Gallaher says, courage is contagious and vulnerability is contagious. The other thing about bringing your complete and total self to the stage is that everyone has nerves. Everyone, and I hear this all the time from clients that they say they’re so nervous before their presentations again, whether it’s in person or virtual and they want to know what to do. And of course there’s breathing exercises and there’s visualization and mindset techniques that you can use and absolutely use those.

Carol Cox:
They are tremendously helpful. The more you do it, the easier it really does get. But here’s the thing. When you have something that’s exciting, when you have something that’s new, when you want to do a good job, when you want to show up, well, you’re going to probably have some nerves. And that’s okay. That’s normal. In the book they were talking about when they were doing the opening night on Broadway, like they were all those actors. And a lot of those actors had a lot of experience on Broadway or off-Broadway and had been doing this play now for a few years in the smaller theater. They were really nervous and it’s okay because they wanted to do a good job and it was a lot of adrenaline, a lot of energy. So it’s okay to have nerves. Now, the fifth and final key area that I want to talk about is universal themes. So when you’re working on your presentation content, your signature talk, think about are there universal themes that you can integrate into it that we all have? And I’ll give you the ones that come out of Hamilton the musical. The first universal theme is ambition. So this is also something that is very American, like the American dream. Are my dreams big enough in my in my meeting to my potential? Am I doing enough? And the song towards the beginning of the musical is about I’m going to take my shot.

Carol Cox:
And now I’m like hearing the song in my head as as I’m saying this, I’m going to take my shot. And in the book, they explain that every musical has an early song. When the main character tells the audience what he or she wants, what’s going to carry them through for the two hours of that musical? What’s their motivation? What is it that they want? And I thought, Oh, that’s so fascinating because I want all of you to have ambition. I want to know what’s going to carry you through your business. I want to know what’s going to carry you through as you’re doing your speaking and your visibility. What is your dream? What is it that you want? And then related to that, are speaking your brand framework, which is what we use with our clients and what we train our clients on. And towards the beginning of the framework, it’s three story structures. What we use, and then we integrate sales and marketing techniques throughout it. And in Act one of the framework is all about what does your audience want? So what is their goal? So what is their ambition? And then by extension, what did you want? Because you’re in the place where your audience will eventually be, so they’re looking to you. So what was your ambition? What did you want? So it’s I like that. That was very much a part of it.

Carol Cox:
The other part of ambition is the idea of America and the American dream. And in the book, at towards the end, they talk about how Alexander Hamilton, the man, Hamilton the play and President Obama as the first black president, really all embody this idea of America and the American dream and the universal theme of union. It was union that they all wanted. Alexander Hamilton, the man he saw, as I mentioned earlier, how those 13 colonies could become a nation. He really wanted to keep them unified. Hamilton The musical, the play they are also talking about union, the Union of the History of the American Revolution, the history of our country, and how so many stories, so many voices have been left out and now bringing those together into one. And then, of course, President Obama and his very famous 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention about red states and blue states, and that there’s not as purple states and all of that, which seems so lovely and quaint now, especially as I’m recording this leading up to the election. Oh, my gosh. I would love to get back to that sentiment, that idea of what is possible for us as America and as Americans to have progress and to have union. So that was that universal theme. The other universal theme is legacy. So what is the legacy that you’re leaving behind? What’s that story that you’re leaving behind? How are you telling your story so that other people can then pick it up later? And as they say in one of the songs, it’s about planting seeds in a garden that you don’t get to see.

Carol Cox:
And a lot of times when I’m talking with my clients and if they have a presentation, a signature talk, where it’s something that the audience has not completely bought into the idea yet. So the audience is on a journey and they be relatively early on in the journey. And what I’ve explained to clients is that you’re planting seeds in the minds of the audience and it may take them seven seeds or ten seeds to actually take action to actually do something related to your topic. You might be that first seed, you could be seed number five or you could be seed. Number ten is the one that tips the scale for them. You don’t know at the time which seed you are, so you truly are planting seeds in a garden that you don’t get to see. And the other universal theme is around loss and grief. There’s a lot of loss in the play as there is just as a as a human existence. So definitely the universal theme of loss and grief. But then the the final universal. Theme is around love. You see it in the play with love of family, of partners and children, love of friends, love of colleagues, of going to war together, founding a nation together, really love of country, love of this idea of America and what it could be and the American ideals.

Carol Cox:
So that’s really how I see the play. Yes, it’s about history. Yes, it’s about the founding of America, but it’s really about love. That’s the thread that I see running throughout the whole thing. I mentioned at the beginning that I was going to share at the end what was my favorite part of the play. And for me, it happens about halfway through Act one and it’s the rewind scene. I don’t know if they call it the rewind scene, but I call it the rewind scene and it’s at the Winter’s Ball. So Eliza and Alexander Hamilton have met and they’re now good at court and then eventually and then get married. And so Eliza sings the song Helpless, where she talks about falling in love with Alexander Hamilton and is her sister Angelica, who introduces her to Alexander Hamilton. And so she finishes her song. She they get married. And then right after that they do a toast to the bride and the groom. And then Eliza’s sister, Angelica, then rewinds. And then you see that entire few minutes of what had just happened with Eliza meeting Alexander Hamilton and then courting and getting married. You see that now from the perspective of Angelica, the sister, because she also liked Alexander Hamilton.

Carol Cox:
And then so literally the dancers and the characters on the stage like rewind their bodies as they rewind scene starts and the music. And then it’s the song Satisfied, sung by Angelica the sister, as she goes through and see and talks about it from her perspective. Now this also relates to the idea of who tells the story and who’s perspective are you hearing? The moment I saw that, like literally the moment I saw the rewind, I like stopped in my seat as I was watching this. And I and I said to myself, wow, this play is not only great, but it’s an absolute work of creative genius. I love playing with the timeline of a story. So when I saw that, it just really spoke to me. A lot of times when I do my own talks or working with clients, if they have a really key story that they’re sharing, that’s the basis of their talk. We’ll play with the timeline. So we’ll sometimes start in the middle of the story at the beginning of their talk, then kind of wind our way through, go back to the beginning and then end at the end. Or sometimes we’ll start at the end and then work our way backwards. Sometimes we’ll start the story at the beginning. Kind of just depends on what fits with that particular talk. But I love playing with the timeline. That’s another story element that you can use.

Carol Cox:
I hope you enjoyed this episode. It was so much fun for me to put together. It was my creative outlet to go through these things, think about them all and how I could relate them to you as speakers and what we can learn from it. Now go watch Hamilton, whether it’s for the first time or the second time or the third time or the fifth time or however many times the next two episodes will finish up our storytelling series, we’re going to have an episode. On finding the hook for your book and another episode on using stories in data driven presentations, so be sure to hit the subscribe button if you haven’t already so you don’t miss those episodes and our future ones. I hope you enjoyed listening to that episode as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Be sure to stay tuned because we have coming up some incredible interviews with our thought Leader Academy clients, including from how to go from an expert to a sought after speaker and thought leader, sharing your story as a catalyst for transformation and using public speaking to influence social change. I know you’re going to be inspired by those interviews as well, so make sure to hit, subscribe or follow in your podcast app. Also share this episode with a friend or a colleague who you think would enjoy it as much as you did. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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