Public speaking is the number one social phobia
Glossophobia, more commonly known as a fear of public speaking, is commonly affecting up to three-quarters of people. Yet it is a skill that is increasingly critical in our everyday lives, from school presentations to wedding speeches and sales pitches, we cannot escape it. Stepping up your public speaking game is less daunting than you might imagine. The trick is to develop the skill from the inside-out, rather than the traditional outside-in approach that many programs use only to produce mediocre outcomes.
You may wonder why I am suggesting that traditional public speaking programs don’t work. Beyond the obvious pervasiveness of the fear itself, many “trained” individuals speak in a stilted, uninspiring, or overly rehearsed way. This is generally because traditional learning programs focus on observable things like attire, umms/ahs, media, venue, audience, etc. This is important for sure, but it does not produce an inspiration or energetic speaker. Moving the audience to action matters if we’re to make a difference, and if we’re not achieving that then why are we speaking at all? All of this is to say that “meh” presentations tend to make it difficult for the audience to connect with the speaker and their message.
I can imagine the curiosity set in for some wondering if they fall into the “meh” category. Fear not, it is easier to help yourself than you might imagine! Let me shine some light on why.
Public speaking comes from the inside-out
Whenever we apply any skill, we run through an internal program that executes the desired skill. The program is developed based on our prior experiential learning. That might include classroom or course training, watching other public speakers, or our own experience amongst other things. In other words, all the initial exposure is based on what we see or hear. This is a mere 50% of the learning equation, at best!
What about the beliefs, values, our sense of self, or our life purpose – how do all these things influence our ability to master a skill?
If you want to climb a mountain, it takes more than the right equipment and physical preparedness to succeed. Mental preparedness is essential: developing self-sufficiency, resilience, patience, motivation, and a willingness to (potentially) accept today just isn’t our day to reach the summit. None of these essential mental skills are easily observable, if at all. So how do we get this insight as part of our quest to master a given skill?
Picking up public speaking again, let’s choose to focus on a specific step in a public speaking program: the two minutes leading up to walking on the stage (or going live on a virtual conference platform).
If I wanted to understand how to use these 2-minutes to generate useful energy to help me perform on stage, how would I do that?
Exploring a specific moment
We start by recognizing that we will acquire this skill insight from individuals who are naturally good at doing it. From one or two individuals that you identify with the skill you seek; you will explore with them how it’s done. A significant part of this conversation will be spent in their inner world (i.e.: the unobservable inner program areas).
You will gently explore these personal (and generally self-protected) spaces, starting with beliefs. What belief system is the masterful speaker applying immediately before, during, and after the two minutes leading up to the start of the presentation?
Motivation: Determine what drives the person to do what they do, and why it works.
Are you being pulled toward achieving a defined goal? Or could you be pushing yourself away from something undesirable?
Values: Understand which of their values come into play when doing “their thing.”
How do your personal values relate to your motivation and beliefs?
Beliefs: Identify how the execution of the individual’s skill(s) demonstrates their core beliefs.
How do your beliefs play into your actions and behaviors as you perform? How do you build belief in your ability before expertise is consistently manifesting?
Self-talk: Comprehend the impact that their self-talk has on their ability to do the skill in question.
How does your (positive or negative) self-talk impact the process and its outcome? What about how you manage negative self-talk before and during the performance? Or, how does positive self-talk assist you before and during the performance?
We then move a little deeper into the individual’s sense of identity. Several questions help you further reveal the areas that matter. Some of those might include:
What are you thinking just before or just as you start the activity? How are your thoughts changing as you perform the skill? Specifically, how are your thoughts influencing (hindering) your success? What about success, how does it look/feel to you? Which of your values is being fulfilled in this process? Which thoughts are helping you to achieve success during your moment in time? How do how others see you align with how you’d like them to see you?
We conclude this inner world exploration by understanding their life purpose or vision. Some questions here may include:
How would you sum up your mission in life? What in this activity or skill helps you to fulfill your aspirations? How does it contribute to or benefit the lives of others? How would you like to be remembered when all is said and done?
Final Thoughts on the public speaking game
With all these questions, you’re looking for patterns—patterns between those elements required to master the desired skill and elements important to the expert but not necessarily required for your mastery (such as a sprinter’s lucky socks). From the conversations, you will generate a model for the visible (blue) and invisible (brown) aspects that lead to skill mastery. For the two minutes before the live presentation begins, it’s illustrated as follows:
Step up your public speaking game by going well beyond the traditional outside-in advice, there is much more to true mastery than what you can observe. Get into why public speaking matters, how self-talk influences successes, and what you need to consider for yourself.
So, if you want to join a growing group of highly effective people that know the best way to learn, lead and build a successful life then check out The Power of Potential!
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Cartoon credit: Brian Crane
Two minutes leading up to a live presentation diagram credit: David Wray, The Power of Potential