Out Trick The Fear of “Public Speaking”

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My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.

Michel de Montaigne

 

My friend Becky (names changed) recently told me that her boss is worth $400 million – and – he’s afraid to speak in public!

 

Let that sink in. . .

 

Almost every person who seeks me out for public speaking coaching laments, “I don’t know why I’m afraid.”The reasons they offer seldom are grounded in hard logic. Many of the reasons are inane (and I tell them that).

 

People hypnotize themselves into a state of mumbled nerves, all while engaging in magical thinking:

If I talk softly, they won’t hear me say something stupid.

If I don’t look at people, they won’t ask me questions.

If I don’t show emotion, they won’t pay attention to my accent.

 

Why speak in a soft voice?

Do you think you are engaging?

Do you think people are grateful?

Do you think it makes you trustworthy?

Do you think it enhances your authority?

 

NO!

 

And, yet, people self-sabotage out of fear based in some weird thinking (and, yes, I am an expert in weird thinking as I’ve spent countless hours addicted to such thinking!)

 

This post is prompted by an email I had received from a client a few weeks before Covid hit and I never had the chance to share it.

 

Blake came to me determined to improve as a speaker. He had to as he recently opened up his own insurance office and speaking was a key component to reaching new clients.

 

We had been working on his techniques shy of three months when he wrote me –

 

I just finished with a client presentation, and did my default critique of all the areas that need improvement. Originally, this email was intended to provide you with that list. BUT you will be happy to know that when I fired up g-mail I remembered that I would be better served to take note on what I did well and express my gratitude. So, let’s start with that.

 

  1. My slides made sense and I understood what I wanted to do with them. They had real meaning.

 

  1. When I found myself in the weeds, I did a good job of being aware of that fact by stopping and asking for feedback.

 

  1. I made them and their needs the focus of my conversation.

 

  1. I stayed away from assumptions and always responded by asking them to confirm if I was right or wrong.

 

  1. I was energetic, compassionate and humble in my approach.

 

  1. I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference for people.

 

Areas for improvement:

  • I was way too fast-paced and in my head.
  • I was all over the map and at times confusing.
  • I thought I was prepared but now I feel like I could have been more prepared.
  • I felt a little panicky, fight or flight-ish for some reason.
  • I could have organized my materials in a way that made things more clear.
  • I could have had a clear outcome from this call and a clear path for proceeding forward.

 

I wanted to cry I was so happy for him. AND I felt smug –

THIS is infomercial proof that with strategy + practice + determined patience you can develop as a confident speaker.

 

Another “infomercial” client is Summer. She is an accomplished and beloved high school administrator – despite being a too-nervous-to-be-engaging speaker. She races when speaks because she doesn’t believe she’s worthy of being listened to. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves!

Summer worked hard on a presentation she was slated to give at a Zoom conference. It was this talk that finally gave her the breakthrough she had been yearning – and – working for.

She told me that she closed with a personal story that was important to her. She shared the story with me and I was moved. It was a story that had “heart.”

Gifting her audience with a story that had heart allowed her to –

  1. Show passion
  2. Connect emotionally
  3. Share her enthusiasm
  4. Take the audience on a journey that made them think
  5. Reassure all that she is both approachable and vulnerable and so is “real”
  6. Tap into her humor which was rooted in joy
  7. Generate interest and welcome questions

She finally believed in the worth of what she was saying – and magic was created.

 

Oftentimes, in a first meeting, a potential client will say to me, “It would be nice not to be afraid, but I guess I’ll always nervous.”

 

Here’s the thing –

Maybe you WILL always be nervous.

BUT

Blake and Summer remind us – you can be nervous AND engaging.

You can be nervous AND confident at the same time.

 

The truth is – being nervous AND boring is simply a choice. . .

 

Now THAT’s the business of confidence!

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