Big speech coming up…

Oh no, I’ve got to speak tomorrow…

   So here you are, the big day’s coming up, and you want to convince your team or your boss at work about this new project that’s going to change everything…   

   Or maybe you want to get the people in your NGO behind you to get that amazing new initiative rolling,   

   Or you want to present the latest information on sales and product development, and well some of it is good and some of it not, so how can you make the most of a tricky situation…      

   So, what to do?      

   Well, like most people in the modern world, you head off to Google and you type in something like “speaking in public”, or “how to come across better”, or “how to inspire people”…      

   Great idea, of course.      

   But what turns up?      

   We know what happens: mostly all you see a page of…      


   <i>7 tips to improve your public speaking – 10 tips on how to captivate your audience – The best 5 tips to control your nerves before a major presentation -… and so on.   </i>   

   Of course, the whole internet is full of tips for this and that, and tips can of course be very useful if you’re completely stuck. But let’s be honest, how many times in the last year did you read through a list of tips and actually, consciously really put one of them into action?      

   Once? Twice? None?   

   We like reading tips because it’s better than doing nothing and just worrying ourselves to death. You can always say afterwards that you read some tips, you did something…      

   The other thing we love on the internet are lists. Lists are so reassuring, we think: “at least one or two of the things on this list are going to be doable”. The unshakeable optimists among us might even think: “If I actually just go through this list and just do everything, everything on the list, I’m going to be alright, everything will go brilliantly”…   

   But again, how many times in the last year did you actually do this? Really, actually do it?   

   The reality of improving something like speaking in public is that it is a process that needs three things:      

   1. Information   

   2. Practice   

   3. Feedback   

   Nothing to surprising here. It’s like any kind of performance. You need to know what to do, you need time and space to try this out and you need to know which parts of what you did need improving.      

   Reading a tip might, just might give you a bit of help with number 1, assuming that that particular tip really is something useful for how you are performing at the moment.      

   But that leaves 2. and 3…   

   And instinctively, if we’re honest, we know that to really get better and become more comfortable and inspiring when speaking in front of people, we need to DO it <i>AND</i> get FEEDBACK. Helpful, precise, tailored feedback.      

   Just practicing is, as we know, not enough. How many public speakers have you met that are awful and yet have been speaking for years and years…?      

   Of course, this is all a little uncomfortable, isn’t it? Feedback… Hm, that sounds like criticism, that sounds like “I’m no good”, “I’m useless”, “I should abandon all this and go back to making websites…”   

   I mean, of course, there IS this idea about feedback that actually it’s really great (you just focus on the context, the action and the result, and focus on the positive, etc…) but we all know, don’t we, what it really means.      

   It means I’m going to be revealed for what I am, incompetent, inefficient and uninspiring.      

   I think I’ll give that a miss, thank you very much.      

   And I head back to my emails.      

   But then, later, I remember, I still have to DO this talk, I still have to go out there.      

   “Oh well, that’s ok, I’ll just improvise, I’ll be OK once I get started. Nobody’s ever complained before. And at least I’m better than what’s-his-name.”   

   So, in the midst of all these inner voices, just what use exactly does reading a list of tips really have?      

   In fact, I suggest to you that you might even be better off not reading ANY tips.      

   Why’s that?      

   Well, if you don’t read any tips, you’re going to be on your own, with your own nerves, and reactions and who knows? You might end up showing who you really are instead of masking it with a strategy. Because we often use a tip hoping to cover up the bad stuff, the stuff we don’t want people to see.   

   But, actually, what do people really want to see?      

   Suppose that actually what they want to see is YOU, as you are, with the good bits and the bad bits.      

   Maybe we got this all wrong about public speaking. Maybe we’re doing this the wrong way around.      

   Maybe we need to be trying to do less, not making a huge list of ‘things to focus on’ as we speak.   

   Perhaps we can get to an amazing, inspiring place much more quickly, by doing less, and less and less.      

   And instead we can just focus on 1. information 2. practice and 3. feedback, information, practice, feedback, information, practice…      

   And perhaps we can get to an amazing result, very quickly, much more quickly than we thought, and learn a new skill that for years and years will help us to inspire people, bring about change and make our contribution to life on this planet.   

   All by doing less, by giving up hiding who we actually are and what we actually feel.      

   Sounds great.      

   But, do you want to know the truth?      

   It is great. And, even this needs practice and feedback.      

   Yes, feedback, from someone else.   

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