Feed your trust in public speaking.

I trust you now dad.

This is what my daughter said to me on a recent holiday after she conquered her fear of swimming.

When she was a baby we took her to a swimming session, and she hated it. This experience lodged in her subconscious, and in the intervening years we’ve have had many disasters with trying again. I was guilty of pushing her to hard at times, such was my desperation for her to see the benefit and knowing how much she would enjoy it when she began to trust herself. I would sit for hours with her and talk about her fears, and go through step by step how I would help her. I would reassure her that she would be safe and I wouldn’t let anything happen to her. She would nod, and in her need to please would say how much she was looking forward to go swimming again.

Then the inevitable would happen.

There is a big difference between rationale and trust. Very often we can understand something intellectually, but until we ‘own it’ and find the feeling of trust for ourselves then the required skill is just a thought; and the thought can be dangerous because it’s so easy to talk ourselves out of doing it. How many times in your life, have you wanted or needed to do something and you have intellectualized the task, and then when you have tried it- been crippled by fear.

I think we all know this feeling.

This is hard enough with something like swimming, but at least no one is watching you while you’re trying to figure out how can you trust yourself.

In public speaking, there is no hiding place. All the attention is on you, and it can be very difficult to trust yourself and who you are when everybody is looking at you. You’re dealing with many things happening at the same time, content, clarity of voice, importance of the event, your own vulnerabilities, who is in the audience. It’s very easy to go into your head and while the words are coming out of your mouth, internally you are trying to either suppress thoughts or keep a conscious awareness of what you think you should be doing.

Until you can learn a system that will allow you to trust your subconcious and trust who you are under pressure then speaking in public will always be difficult. You may find ways to get through it. But is that the limit of your capability? You may find a way for people to hear your content instead of really listening to you. But is that what you want?

You are a lot more than you think you are.

The best public speakers, are able to trust who they are. They know their vulnerability is where their greatest strength lies- because this is where their true self lies.

Why is this important or even relevant? Because when somebody is comfortable in their own skin and is able to share who they are, it makes them instantly relatable. When we relate with someone, we engage and listen to them.

And what do you want from your audience?

That’s right – to listen.

My daughter has learnt a very simple truth, that she has projected onto me.

She doesn’t trust me now.

She trusts herself.

Externalize your focus in public speaking

Who cares about you?

It’s an interesting thought.

Partners, parents, siblings, close friends,  are all a given- but even they have their own lives and while they certainly care; how much of their time is spent thinking about you?

Moments in the day or week. No more.

If those closet to you only think about you in moments. How much do work colleagues care about you, or spend large amounts of time thinking about you?

Hardly ever.

Do strangers care or think about you.

Certainly not.

Why then in public speaking do you presume the audience cares and thinks about you??

Let’s look at a scenario. You’re standing there and suddenly you see the audience- will they like me? Will they listen to me? What if I make mistake and look stupid. What do all of these thoughts have common? They presume to know what others are thinking. You are stood there supposedly ready to speak, when in reality you’re attempting to second guess what work colleagues or strangers think about you.

Which brings us to the golden rule- Nobody outside of your inner circle cares about you.

How do I know this? Well how often do you spend time thinking about what work colleagues are feeling. The answer is hardly ever, because you are too consumed by your own thoughts, actions, and life. Therefore It’s not a stretch to safely assume that if you are doing this then so is the other person! This highlights another truth; you are naturally selfish with your thoughts, (we all are) which leads you to irrationally presume the world revolves you.

This means you’re nurturing the idea that the audience cares more about you, than they do about themselves.

Really?

Lets digest that for a moment as we go back to our example.

The time has arrived and your on the spot ready to speak. It’s absolutley vital in these last moments that you realise it’s not about you. So often in public speaking people make the mistake of focusing internally. If you do this, then you’re just reinforcing neagtive thought. If you place your focus externally or on the audience, then what happens to you? That’s right- you start to feel at ease because suddenly it’s not about you.

When you focus on externally, something else starts to happen. You begin to realise that you can control what the audience is feeling.

Let me explain in more detail.

You begin to deliver and you focus on whether what you are saying is landing. You are actively watching, observing and listening to your audience. It is impossible to do this AND feel vulnerable or self-conscious, so as by product of focusing externally you begin to relax. As you relax- so does your audience and it becomes much easier to be yourself and build rapport. This has hasn’t happened by you consciously telling  yourself to relax, it’s happened because you’ve got outside of your head by focusing externally on the audience.

Who care’s about you?

No one.

Well, only the people that matter.

Locate your confidence in public speaking

A while ago, I went to see an event with a good friend of mine.  We got talking afterwards about the speaker on show.

‘I couldn’t do that.’ Remarked my friend.

Why?

Because I’m not confident enough.

Something immediately struck me about this comment; it was said with an absolute assuredness.

And yet- what is confidence? Is it how we present ourselves externally, or something deeper?

We often mistake apparent confidence for insecurity. Do you know somebody who loves to talk about where they have been, what they do for living, or how much money they have? What’s important to remember here is, who are they telling?  This is not confidence, this is ego talking borne out of insecurity.

So . . Something deeper then.  

Confidence is about trust- not the intangible and wavering feeling but in one’s own resources.

Clients will often say to me, In some ways I’m really confident and in other ways I’m shy. The key thing to acknowledge here is the self realisation that the feeling of ‘confidence’ does exist; otherwise how do they recognise it?

I put this thought to my friend.

‘Yes, but getting up in front of people to speak is totally different to what I do normally’

Well . . yes. . of course it is. However, how do any us gain confidence in what we do? We learn, we make mistakes, we hone, we make more mistakes, and after a while a system starts to emerge and a trust starts to develop in our given skill and with it our confidence increases. But that only happens once you have committed to something new, once you are prepared to go outside of your comfort zone and grow.

So how do you take the first step towards locating your confidence?

You must use the resources within yourself that reinforce the feeling of trust and in turn confidence. What if you could take the feeling of confidence in something you excel at and move it into something where you don’t trust yourself yet?  Feeling confident or not isn’t about your ability to do something outside you’re comfort zone.  It’s about where you choose to place to your focus. The best public speakers didn’t start by thinking I will be amazing, they started by thinking – it’s ok if I’m not amazing. To think in this way means the person doesn’t expect excellence initially, but is willing to trust their own resources to become excellent.  

Let’s look at an example-

Person A- is a doctor and has been asked to speak to a large group, they’ve never done this before and don’t feel confident.

Ok, so what resources or strengths might be transferrable to help remind this person how capable and confident they actually are.

Speaking to patients, leading a small team of junior doctors, the knowledge that they studied for several years demonstrating resilience and achievement.

Very quickly a different person starts to emerge, a person who has used their confidence throughout their life and continues to use it daily.

If you choose to place your focus on negative resources such as your fear of failing, or worrying if the auidence will like you,  then you will sit inside your own mind, unable to see or access your confidence.  This mindset will harden and calcify in difficult times or perhaps when watching fantastic public speakers thinking  ‘I couldn’t possibly do that.’

Our sense of possibility only narrows when we don’t trust ourselves, and our confidence diminishes when we don’t acknowledge our own resources. 

Trusting your own experiences and strengths to gain confidence isn’t the preserve of the few, it is in all of us.

Your confidence is within you. It always has been, and always will be.

Whether you choose to find it,  is up to you.

Establish your authenticity in Public Speaking.

You don’t really mean that.

This thought is constantly with me, when I ask my partner something and I feel she is holding something back.

I ask the question and she replies yes. However her tone, intonation and body language tell me otherwise. I heard the answer and yet I didn’t because I’m focusing on what she didn’t say.  What I’m describing here is someone’s subtext or what’s implied but not said.

It happens to all of us, all the time, but how often do we say what we’re really thinking?

Hardly ever.

The reason is simple, our thoughts are for ourselves- they are our own private space where we can criticise, fantasise and day dream. Our thoughts also govern how we feel. If I ask my partner the same question on different days – I may get a yes each time but the subtext of each yes will be different depending on what she is thinking about in that moment.

This is also true of longer conversations, how often have you stopped listening to someone? You have read their subtext and started to switch off; because as they’re talking you know they’re holding something back, or trying to come across as somebody they’re not?  Your face is pointing at them and pretending to listen, but you’re not engaged because they can’t or won’t connect with you.

So we know as a listener how easy is to switch off, but what is happening when the roles are reversed and you’re talking- why do you hold back, or over compensate by trying to be somebody you’re not?

Well, firstly- you have programmed yourself to only share the bits you want with the people you want. Which means most people only see a small part of who you really are.  Secondly, even if you do want to share with your inner circle,  you are still acutely aware that what you say could leave you feeling vulnerable. And what’s the first thing you do when you feel vulnerable? That’s right, pretend you don’t feel vulnerable.  So it feels easier and more comforting in the moment to suppress who you are. 

If we take this into speaking in public then- what are you faced with?

A group of people looking at you waiting for you to speak. . . .

Perhaps you don’t know them, or want to make a good impression so your subconcious programme kicks in- and they only get the bits you want to share, profressional you, sensible you. But your audience is struggling to listen because they’re reading your subtext and they know you’re suppressing who are you. They’re getting distracted by your tone, intonation and body language. They’re pointing their face at you but they’re thinking – this person doesn’t look comfortable, they look tense and nervous. 

When this happens the audience stops engaging with you.

They still hear what you’re saying, but they’re not listening.

Big difference.

Whenever you speak to an audience you are always looking for a connection. You may think no one wants to see your vulnerability, you may think no one wants to see the real you, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.

Think about your favourite comedian- why are you laughing? You’re laughing because you find them relatable. You’re laughing because it feels like it’s just them talking to you- like a friend or relative. They’re making you feel like that because they are sharing themselves and their vulnerabilities.

Now, I’m not suggesting a career in comedy- I’m merely using it as an example to illustrate the point.

If you suppress who you are for fear of showing weakness, you’re missing your best chance to connect with your audience.

If you share who you are, your insecurities become instantly relatable because your audience see themselves in you and they engage more. The more they engage the more they listen.

Tell your audience you feel nervous.

Let them see you’re not perfect, because they aren’t either.

Don’t hold yourself back.

Banish your fear in public speaking

What if I forget what I am saying?

What if they don’t think I’m credible?

What if they ask me something and I don’t know the answer.

So many questions can emanate from two words- what if.

But they all have one thing in common- Fear

Life is full of the unexpected and if we asked ourselves ‘what if’ every time we faced a challenge it would be hard to imagine us doing or achieving anything. And yet- we are willing to drive a car, fly on a plane, get married, have children, and grasp opportunity. Each of those examples has it’s own potential pitfall or ‘what if’ question.  However we do those things because at some point we have accepted that while something may go wrong, or we may fail, we see the ultimate benefit or outcome.

If we bring that back to public speaking – what is your desired outcome? What will have to happen for you to know you’ve done a good job- is it just getting through it without making a mistake? Or perhaps knowing that the audience could hear you throughout? That’s understandable, but is this the limit of your potential?  And more importantly why set yourself such a low bar?

The answer is two fold, but let’s start with the pictures you’re creating

What if I forget what I’m saying? This leads to a picture in your mind of you looking vulnerable in front of your audience. This escalates to hearing awkward silence, which escalates again to feeling really embarrassed because you’ve completely frozen.  Before you know it the picture has become so big it’s overwhelming. Your body doesn’t know that what your mind has created isn’t real, and you start to feel very nervous- anxious even. 

Now,  because you don’t want to feel like this, you suppress the picture and try harder with your content.

‘I’m a professional. Just concentrate on getting the content right, and it will be fine.’

Except, it won’t be fine. Because your subconscious never lies, and it has this nasty habit of screaming at you when you really don’t need it to. For instance when you now have 10, 100, or 1000 people looking at you and your neck has gone red, your palms are sweating, and you’re on the verge of forgetting your next bit. . .

It’s screaming- I TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN.

While you wrestle with your subconscious, your delivery becomes robotic or monotone, and all the audience can see is you trying to avoid the presupposed picture you have created. Most importantly, your audience isn’t listening- because while you’re trying to not make a mistake you’re coming across as tense and perhaps even boring. 

Which brings us to our next ‘what if’.

What if people don’t like me or think I’m credible?  Well, if we put aside the fact that your picture of failure is projecting exactly what you don’t want, there is also another truth; that you’re assuming what other people are thinking and, even worse, taking responsibility for it. Whenever any of us is under pressure it’s very easy to turn our lack of self belief into judgement by others.

The thought ‘ I’m not sure how this will go’ quickly becomes ‘I don’t think people will like me’.

Let me be clear; you are not boring. You are highly qualified in your field and you have been asked to speak for a reason, because you bring knowledge and expertise. Remember that.

Let me be clear; you are not a mind reader. No one in the audience actually cares about you. No audience has ever turned up wanting the speaker to fail. Ever.  All they want is to listen to you. It’s vital that when you’re asked to speak you acknowledge this.

Speaking in public isn’t about getting it right, it’s not even about your content. It’s about you, and your ability to banish your fear and trust who you are; so your audience listen to you and not the content. To do that, you must understand what you’re choosing to focus on, and the affect this has on the pictures you create and blocks you put in the way of your own success. 

You can find problems in ‘what if’, or it can also help you achieve your desired outcome, because banishing your fear is where your greatest growth lies.

What if you had a system in place to help you banish your fear, so your audience listen to you and not the content?

A B.E.L.I.E.F System.