Whether you are at the start of your public speaking journey, or you have ventured some way along the road, have you ever sat down and listed all the skills and expertise you have amassed along the way?
It’s all too easy for you to spend the whole time looking ahead at all things you have YET to do – all the dreams you have yet to realise – without ever really celebrating all the things you have done: all the things that make you proud and make you confident you can take the next steps on the journey – wherever it may take you.
Eating With a Knife and Fork is Difficult
My daughter is starting to master the art of using a knife and fork to eat. Watching her face and her frustrations as she struggles to coordinate the movements required is amazing:
- she pushes food onto the fork and it slides off
- she gets it near her face and it tips off
- she gets the angle wrong on the knife and it doesn’t cut properly, so she ends up tearing food apart
- finally after chasing the last few around her plate for ages, she gives up eats her baked beans with her fingers
Watching her struggle with something I take for granted has really helped me appreciate just how “skilled” I am with these implements that are so alien and hard to handle for her. And it got me reflecting on all the skills I have learnt to master the art of presenting…
Where Are You on Your Speaking Journey?
Even if you’ve just started, the chances are that you know a whole lot more than you did a few months ago, nevermind years ago. I was very proud of the presentations I delivered 20 years’ ago, but they’d make me (and you) wince if I showed them now, as they are miles away from my current approach.
One way to appreciate just how far you’ve come is to list of all the skills and experience you have as a speaker. Even if you’ve just started, you’ll find that the list is quite long – I know my skills with slideware has come on in leaps and bounds since reading Presentation Zen a few years ago.
Just in case you are struggling with your list (do it over several days and ask your colleagues or friends)
- What’s the largest audience or the hardest you have spoken to (and perhaps survived, if not enjoyed the experience)?
- How are you with the technology – using slideware, using a remote mouse, working out why your laptop/ smart phone is not displaying on the screen?
- What are the strategies you have to calm your nerves to the right level of buzz before a performance?
- What questions do you ask your audience to know that your content is perfect for them?
- How do you get the information you need to continually improve?
Find a presentation or outline you delivered a few months or a year ago, and think about how you might do it now, given all that you know… Different? You betcha!
As the adage goes – the longest journey begins with the smallest step. So what’s your next step on your journey to becoming the speaker you want to be?
Share it below, as you might just find someone who can help you on your way…
Did you get gold and silver stars in school for good behaviour or great spelling? Simple, and very effective. Or so I hoped when I started using these this week during potty training… It started well and my daughter seemed motivated, but quite quickly the gold stars stopped having any impact. The next day we swapped to bigger stickers that she chose herself, but her interest waned there too.
The books suggested stickers would work, so what were we doing wrong?
I Am Not Anyone Else, I Am ME
The thing is, every child (and the child in every adult) is motivated by different things. So there’s no ONE answer that will work every time.
We had to get inside her head and work out what she wanted the most.
And I think we’ve cracked it – she gets a story of her choice read on mummy’s knee (it’s safe, she’s only just gone for a wee) and lots of hugs the minute she’s off the potty. Because a) later is never in their minds and b) what she wants more than anything is my undivided attention.
What Motivates You May Not Motivate Your Audience
So what is your equivalent of a Gold Star? How do you reward yourself when you’ve done a good job, or tackled a chore, or rang a potential client?
Whilst that is important to know for yourself. It’s unlikely to work on your audience. If you want to encourage your audience to take a risk, step up to a new level of performance, or tackled something difficult, don’t use your Gold Stickers.
Let them decide what will motivate them.
Because we’re all individuals, and one girl’s Princess Stickers are another boy’s Thomas the Tank Engines!
Your audience doesn’t think in words. They instantly convert the words you say when you are speaking and presenting into pictures. That’s just how it works. This works to your advantage if you can deliver words that create powerful, vivid images that will stick in your audience’s minds for months or years to come.
But there is a trap within this image lark. Especially if your talk or presentation is peppered with “no” or “not“.
For example – if I say “don’t think of a purple striped zebra” – what pops into your mind? Is it a purple striped zebra, or a pink spotted elephant? Does it matter that I clearly said “don’t” at the start?
Not one bit.
I learnt how powerful this was when out walking with my 3 YO nephew. The ground was very muddy, so being cautious, I said “don’t slip”. Guess what? He couldn’t process the “don’t” either, so immediately slipped and covered himself in mud. D’oh!
Would You Rather be “Not Scared” or “Excited”?
My children absolutely adore the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” – in fact in just 2 weeks I have read it to them so often that I can now tell the story from memory whenever I need to entertain them.
But the very first time I read it, I made a subtle change to the story. The line that stuck in my throat was this: “We’re not scared”. It’s repeated many times but I couldn’t resist reframing it. When my husband and I read the story, we say “We’re soooo excited”.
Does it change the story? Not really. But it will make a big difference to the images that my little audience holds in their minds as they listen.
What Pictures Are You Painting?
One of the best ways to find out where your images could be improved is to tape yourself speaking or presenting. You don’t need to video it, just record the audio version – using a simple digital voice recorder or your mobile phone.
Then listen back.
For each phrase or section, ask yourself this: “what picture am I painting in the mind of my audience?” If you use words that paint gloomy pictures – even if the phrase you utter is “it’s not all doom and gloom” – guess what they have in their minds? Is it happy, smiling faces in sunny weather? Is it heck!
One of my favourite re-wordings is in changing the word “work” into “paid play”. It changes my whole attitude and how I get out of bed in the morning. What are yours?