Can you drive?

Slow down!

Is the cry from my partner whenever I go 1mph over the speed limit, or her whole body will violently jolt whenever I come within ten meters of the car in front.

Cursory glances are mutually exchanged. 

If we park (sorry) my domestic woes for a while, I want to take a closer look at what is happening under the bonnet. (I’ll stop now)

Whenever we drive a car we are using lots of different skills. Muscle memory for changing gear and using the clutch. Our vison to watch the road, and critical thinking to make quick and adaptable changes should the need arise. We don’t credit ourselves with driving because it’s just what we do.

But how did we get there?

We all remember getting in for the first time, the inability to keep your foot still on the clutch, 20mph feeling like you were driving a supercar, and the horror of seeing other drivers on the road.

It’s very alien.

After a while a process starts to emerge, the gear change feels less clunky. We hold our foot at biting point without constantly being aware of it, and we start to notice what is happening on the road without the instructor telling us. We begin to trust ourselves internally that we can drive the car, or in other words our subconcious starts to drive the car, and our conscious mind concentrates on the external and reacts to the road.

So what are the parallels between driving a car and speaking in public, or doing the dreaded presentation?

Well, mentally there is zero difference between driving and public speaking. Too often my clients are checking internally if they will remember what they are saying, or they’re anxious to know if people will like them. They are focusing their energy on negative resources, and taking responsibility for what other people think.

What would happen if you had the same thought process when you got in the car and asked yourself; am I in the right gear? What if I crash? What if other car drivers behave erratically?

You’d quickly stall and start to panic.

When we get in the car, we must trust our skill and knowledge and react to the road.

When we speak in public, we must trust our skill and knowledge and react to the audience.

Public speaking, like driving, is about knowing your content or skill so well, you can forget it consciously and trust it will be there when you need it. This allows you to concentrate on the external;  and when you trust yourself and really commit your focus to the audience, what are you not thinking about?

You.

Maybe my other half was right.

What if you slow down, and take a moment to realise it’s not about you it’s about your audience.

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