Recently, I attended a “Room of Your Own” training session focused on perfecting public speaking skills as a guest of Blue Planet, one of the top executive seminar companies in the country. I learned so much! For instance…did you know that the #1 American fear is public speaking according to most studies? (Death is #2.) I don’t mind speaking in public, so I was pretty surprised to hear that. Jerry Seinfeld was also amazed at these findings…
1. Get your “why” to the emotional reason level. Why do you want to be a more effective speaker? Most people start with intellectual reasons for wanting to be better at public speaking (i.e. it’s good for my career). The problem with that is that intellectual reasons are rarely enough to trigger and sustain change. Rather, change happens when you get to the emotional reasons. Get real and admit both the positive and negative reasons why you really want to change (i.e. wanting to be impressive/ respected/ remembered).
2. Get over yourself. Your public speaking is not about you. It is about the audience/your listeners. When you stop making it about yourself, greatness occurs.
3. Paint a picture or invoke emotions. Did you know that people don’t think in words and numbers? We think in pictures and emotions, so use your words to mirror the way that people think. The connection with the audience will be stronger. Also, there has been some fascinating research on mirror neuron brain cells that suggest that we mirror the emotions of our species on an unconscious level. In other words, there is a tiny part of the brain that thinks we are doing what we see. Keeping that in mind, go “there” (wherever you want to take your audience emotionally) first in order to bring them along!
(On a related note, NOVA has a really interesting video on the topic of mirror neurons.)
5. If you really want to become a great speaker, get feedback. Bill shared a portion of a conversation from one of the top motivational speakers in the country. The speaker had mentioned that he didn’t really start to grow dramatically until he started demanding feedback after each public speaking outing. He would grab someone from the audience and ask them what they liked the most from his speech and what could make it better. He wouldn’t let them go until they would give him at least one piece of constructive criticism! Bad leaders block feedback and “ok” leaders tolerate feedback. Great leaders not only welcome, accept and encourage feedback, they demand it! (I never thought about it like that!)
6. Watch and listen to yourself speaking publicly on videotape. It is so enlightening! For instance, I didn’t realize that I tend to speak quietly during the end portions of my speaking until I watched myself on video. According to the instructor and my classmates feedback, I am very expressive, confident and have “presence”. I need stronger finishes though. As Bill put it, “run through the finish line” (verbally) when you speak.
7. Believe that your personality is already perfect. Tips and training are great to improve your effectiveness, but don’t change your personality. Rather, use training to help you get better at being you. When applied, the tips and techniques should help let your personality and humor stand out!
I truly believe that once these principles are embraced, noticeable change happens. We spent the remainder of the class learning some practical methods that were very helpful. How to lower the listeners filters so that more of your message can get through; making emotional connections; making team presentations and more. In any event, I wholeheartedly recommend Blue Planet’s public speaking and presentation training classes that are held around the country. They have trained corporate executives, celebrities and (now) me! 🙂