We can all learn to speak, and we really should.
I have just had two amazing days immersed in a conference, and I am searching for the right words with which to describe them to you. I’m in a stupor of sensory overload” floating on the words of wisdom spoken by so many, and the energy which swirled around them with such intensity.
I was invited to speak at the 2006 International Cultural Summit put on by the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, and it was yet another fine example of why speaking is one of the very best things you can learn to do. The perks that come with speaking engagements are just too good to deny yourself.
Besides the obvious ones of meeting new people who are looking for intellectual inspiration (which you can give them), in the case of conferences your presentation is just one of many, and the perk is that you get to attend the rest of them. You bathe in learning you never would have had otherwise. You learn to improve your own craft by witnessing the mastery of others, who readily make themselves available to you, enjoying the camaraderie.
This particular conference was not a first, however it hasn’t been an annual one either. To me, those are the best kind, for the commitment is there, and the anticipation and excitement has steadily grown. They already have some lessons learned behind them, but they aren’t on automatic pilot. They’ve got an edge, and they push beyond it. Because they are held infrequently, the passion of all those involved in their making gets to the point where it is just begging for release.
This particular one, an International Cultural Summit, was the culmination of programs and activities celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. It had promised to provide an opportunity for participants from all over the world, most of who would best be described as indigenous cultural practitioners, teachers, and supporters, to convene, learn, and talk story. All are ardent advocates for ensuring the survival of humanity’s diverse cultural legacies. They came with the goal of producing long term actions around such topics as community building and leadership, cultural preservation and cultural diversity, creative economies and cultural tourism, and the place of culture and the arts in education.
It was impossible to be unaffected by so much passion.
In the final session this afternoon, we ended with a kanikapila (musical jam session) in the old Hawaiian style, where four extraordinary slack key guitar masters appeared in a rare performance together. Those of us who are familiar with their names and careers were awestruck just to have them in the same room, for all are in exceptionally high demand, and they now travel internationally to bring this very Hawaiian art form to the rest of the world. The intent of the session was to demonstrate for us how music is part of our cultural service to others.
Cyril Pahinui, Ledward Ka‘apana, Ozzie Kotani, and Dennis Kamakahi were simply amazing, their music permeating every fibre of my being. However I felt the hour before their concert was even better; during this time they informally talked story with us about what their music has meant to their lives, how they create it and share it, and how in doing so it has become every expression of the aloha spirit they will ever need to sustain them and keep them thriving. They told us how they mentor and teach, and they told stories of how they had learned from the masters who lived before them.
During a beautifully soothing instrumental, I turned to the gentleman sitting next to me and said,
“how lucky are we that this is what we consider going to work” and he, another speaker who does so much more frequently than I, responded,
“I was just thinking the exact same thing.”
Speaking is about sharing your passion with your words, your intentional spirit, and your willingness to serve. Go for it; you may be sitting next to me at another conference one of these days.