I often ask my participants; “What makes a good speaker?”
I get replies which include;
- being self assured,
- comfortable in their own skin,
- good with eye contact,
- a speaker who respect the audience’s time (and thinking process),
- not overly slick,
- a sense of humility, keeps the ego in check!
- engages the audience - the speaker tells us some something new,
- the speaker is relaxed about recovering from making mistakes (rather than worried about making mistakes),
- they are conversational (and not formal),
- they have the ability to be present, in the moment and deal with what's happening in the room,
- good with pauses/silences, they use stories (often personal stories),
- and they are not scared to talk about failures or to reveal something important about themselves - what they are passionate about.
What they are really talking about is authenticity. They want the speaker to be comfortable being themselves.
And the audience want to be able to trust the speaker.
So then the advice that is often given to speakers is “just to be you”.
But the trouble is with that advice is that it involves being me. I don’t mean just be John Dawson, one of them is surely enough! I mean it involves being really ok being your version of “me” in front of others. And that ’s what gets in the way. Massively. People are really, really good at throwing obstacles in front of themselves. Over the years through working with 6000 people who are scared of public speaking I have seen really clear patterns emerge. Below is a list of how we sabotage ourselves. So I’m not saying all of this is true for you but it might be a good chunk.
The obstacles we put on ourselves around being “me":
- We put excessive pressures on ourselves (I’ve got to be…. inspirational, eloquent, dynamic, profound, perfect, someone else, I’ve got to perform, etc.). It’s too much pressure and that really doesn’t help.
- We don’t want people to see us fail in some way (go red, stutter, lose our place, shake)
- We talk to ourselves in really harsh terms (I’m terrible, I’m crap I’m not good enough, they will find me out). We wouldn’t talk to our friends like this.
- We think we know what the audience is thinking - and it’s all negative.
- We don’t like to be looked at.
- We let fear be a signal to stop rather than accepting it as a normal part of public speaking.
- We give ourselves a hard time about having a hard time
The work to do is to let go of these pressures (it's usually us doing it to us) and learn that you are enough. And learn just to BE in front of a room Yes, that needs some work but not that long, to be honest. I saw this process work really well last weekend on a two day course, although the self-talk can be tougher to work on and takes practice. (Learning to be kinder to ourselves is one of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves)
When people get around themselves and stop worrying about who they are, they emerge as authentic speakers. They start to take their place in the world without apologising for doing it. THEN you can then simply say to them “just be you" without them thinking "oh no."