Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Speaking Skills: Mindset

I have recently been putting together a presentation that I am calling "Professionally Speaking: Six Keys to Better Presentations." Because much of my coaching practice involves helping clients improve their communication skills, I decided to make a series of blog posts following the outline of my presentation.

It's a bit of a truism (and also true!) that many people fear public speaking more than they fear death. It is commonly identified as the number one phobia! Yet we all are required to do some "public speaking," whether it's in a staff meeting, a job interview, a sales presentation, or in front of large groups. If the thought of speaking in front of more than one or two people makes your knees shake, then read on.

The first key to better presentations is mindset. When we focus on our fear, we will get more of it; the more you dwell on it, the harder it gets to achieve anything. If your mind automatically goes to the worst-case scenario--"What if I mess up and they laugh at me?"--you will not be able to move forward and seize your own success!

Set your intention for your speech/presentation/interview, and then start with these mind-setting techniques.

  • First, relax. Your audience, whoever they are, wants to hear what you have to say. They are rooting for your success!
  • Instead of thinking, "I am nervous, I am scared!", shift your energy to think, "I am keyed up!" Being keyed up is about having a higher energy to put into your presentation, not necessarily being frightened of fearful. Channel that nervous energy into something positive instead of dwelling on your fear! This is a subtle, but powerful shift.
  • Imagine your success ahead of time. Visualize the room, the audience, and yourself giving the presentation as if you are also in the audience, watching. Notice how well you communicate!
  • Take ownership of your success! A presentation is a chance to shine. You get to share something meaningful with your audience or listeners and show them what you can do! This is especially true of job interviews. Remember, you speech or presentation is not a torture device simply to drive you nuts: It is a means to an end of some sort. Think about the payoff to keep your motivation up.
  • If your mind continually goes to the worst-case scenario, then counter it by imagining the best-case scenario: Suppose that you do everything perfectly, and people are so impressed they whip out their wallets and give you all their money, plus you get a promotion, and you meet the love of your life, and they throw you a parade and give you a key to the city, all as a result of that one speaking opportunity. Obviously, that's not terribly realistic, but neither is the worst-case scenario. Realistically, your presentation will fall somewhere between these opposites.
Still have a nagging fear of being laughed at? Ask yourself this: Have you ever, in real life, seen a speech disrupted by people pointing and laughing over a mistake? Yeah, me neither. So relax!

Coming up: planning your speech, effective rehearsal tips, antianxiety techniques, performance do's and don'ts, plus what to do after.

1 comment:

electevey said...

Great suggestions! I'm looking forward to the further installments in this series.