L Plates For Learner Speakers
Most years I run a specialised Public Speaking Retreat for 6 women. And every year I get asked the same question: “If I attend the Retreat, will I have to speak?”
Not So Red Faced
I once worked with a woman who successfully avoided speaking to her staff en masse for 5 years. Just the thought of it was enough to produce a blood rush. She felt warmth and embarrassment spread across her face like a bushfire. She was sure she looked silly and bright red. She avoided situations that made her the centre of attention. A bit tricky as she was the owner of a small business. When we worked with a video camera, body language and slowing down, she realised her face was not noticeably red and she didn’t look as nervous as she felt inside. With proof and practise over the next few months, her fear went down and her confidence went up. She focused on her purpose in speaking and the people in front of her, instead of herself. Voila!
Now I love the adrenaline rush of relief when I’ve successfully gotten out of something as much as anybody. But avoidance is a good choice only for the short term.
Communication is a core life skill. You are going to be speaking for the long term. You might as well get on with feeling the fear and speaking anyway. Because running a service that makes a real difference, is going to involve you talking about it with more than one person.
Expand From One To Many
“But I prefer one to one speaking” I hear you cry! Many women in business declare their preference for speaking with one person at a time. They enjoy being up close and personal with just one client, colleague or friend.
One day you will have to leave the safety of the coffee nook to promote, influence and impress on a larger scale. If you excel at one to one then I know you can transition from one to many. It’s the same skills, just tweaked and practised to fit the new purpose. Trust me, I’ve helped hundreds of women make the shift.
The Fear To Fab Makeover
While many ways are touted as the answer to overcoming public speaking fear, after specialising in this area for many years, I reckon there are 5 fundamental speaking habits that shift even the most timid of women in business from fear to fabulous:
- Anchor yourself with your speaking purpose.
- Relax your body into a confident, powerful, natural stance.
- Slow down everything. You will have presence and be present.
- Transfer your attention from yourself to your listeners and their needs.
- Don’t give the speech. Be the speech.
Learning To Speak Is Like Learning To Drive
Remember when you first learned to drive a car? You had to turn on the ignition, put the car in gear, check your mirrors, indicate and move into the flow of traffic. One day you are driving along and realise you haven’t thought about those individual steps. You did it unconsciously because it had become a habit of confidence.
And that’s exactly the same when learning those 5 Fear To Fab speaking habits.
The first level of learning is referred to as “conscious incompetence”. Doesn’t sound flattering, but we are all in the same boat when we learn anything new. As your experience increases, you move to the level of flow, fully present and in the moment. This higher level of learning is called “unconscious competence.” This doesn’t too flattering either, but I assure you, flow is good, very good!
In the same way as you effortlessly weave in and out of traffic; having conversations as it were with other cars, I assure you that public speaking becomes an effortless weaving, melding and merging of you and your audience.
Some people come to love public speaking so much, they’ve always got their hand up. The joy of new found speaking agility drives you effortlessly along a freeway, rather than kangaroo hopping in a back lane of obscurity.
Feel Fear Speak Anyway
Finally, to return to the fearful plea: “If I attend the public speaking retreat, will I have to speak?”
Mmm, methinks hanging out with people who actively embrace their public speaking fear at a retreat immersion is the classic “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Surviving the fear shows you can handle it and experiential proof builds your confidence.
At some point, public speaking fear passes away when you learn to let it go, just like my client with the not-so-red face. She now leads her weekly team meeting and is loving it. And so does her business and the ripples it creates, year after year.