What would you answer, if I asked you to complete this statement: “speaking in public is like____________________”?
A new client, let’s call her Alice, was telling me recently that when she first entered her (particularly male-dominated) area of academia 30 years ago, giving a presentation was known amongst her peers as “facing the firing squad”. The audience would lean eagerly towards Alice, armed and ready to rip apart every assertion she made.
And 30 years later, Alice still feels this way – only now, she’s moved into a new area where the audience is waiting with interest and openness to hear what she’s going to say. But she’s still resisting them, armouring herself against their presence and energy (which could actually help her if she let it in) because of her fear of “facing the firing squad”. She stands at the front as if there’s still a gun being held to her head – but now she’s the one holding it!
So what do you tell yourself about presenting to groups? And if it’s negative – play along with me here – what would you prefer to tell yourself?
Now, what would have to happen for this new preferred statement to become true for you?
You can leave the old one behind: like throwing away an old, tired, baggy T-shirt, it doesn’t fit you properly anymore. It’s no longer who you are – let this possibility sink in for a few moments.
Now ask yourself: what would have to happen? Start with one thing. You might decide that you need to:
- Practice your speech more out loud, to get used to the sound of your own voice – especially the start
- Start preparing earlier, rather than drowning in overwhelm and feeling underdone and shaky
- Learn properly how to structure your talks for clarity (for you and your audience)
- Build your confidence by joining a supportive, kind group to practise regularly
- Take control back from another area of your life, knowing that it will help your speaking to improve, as you’re no longer chronically running late or searching for that one crucial piece of paper in the teetering piles on your desk
Now the key, as I’ve written about before here in my post on being an adult learner, not a performer, is that you don’t have to believe you can change your current reality, you just have to start; take action and the belief will come.
By focusing on what you want, and not on what you don’t want, and actually taking action in the outside world, you’ll be amazed how quickly things start to shift. And a chain of small steps will move you a long, long way.
Let me know about your action steps, if you’d like some encouragement. Good luck!