Guest post by:
SJ Harrison coaching.
If you're a high achieving professional then you’re probably used to excelling. Did you ever envision that you’d be doing this much public speaking? Perhaps you find yourself increasingly in the limelight - on video or in meetings. Whatever the arena, your personal vision of success may not have included being on-stage and presenting in front of groups as much as you currently are, or need to be.
Speaking in public is the number 1 fear for most of the population.
If you feel uncomfortable, be reassured: you are in the majority!
Most business professionals are expected to gain facility after just one afternoon of public speaking workshops. Can you imagine expecting someone to get up and play an instrument in front of a group after only one afternoon of instruction?
Public speaking is performance and you are your performance instrument. Unfortunately, the business world doesn’t fully understand what it takes for an individual to do this. The takeaway here is that tips are useful but they aren’t technique.
Happily, opportunities to hone these skills are available, and doing so can benefit all aspects of your life. Just because you feel awkward or have ‘failed’ before, doesn’t mean you have to continue this cycle. Investing in developing your own performance toolbox is a sign that you value yourself and mean to achieve your goals.
Whether or not you have obvious vocal issues, your life experience shows up in your voice. Your voice is your power and clarity in the world. Breath is the engine of the voice and the voice is the epicenter of our communication. When you engage your voice, your intellect and emotions are activated as well. Shine a light on the voice and you shine a light on the whole person!
“There are no bad voices, only bad habits.” - Patsy Rodenburg
The vocal habits we’ve developed throughout our lives, to conform to expectation, to protect ourselves, to hide how we’re feeling, lead to physical inhibitions in the voice.
- The material world moves at a sedate pace, whereas thought and emotion are electric;
- Our bodies represent ourselves in the material world
- Changing thoughts and feelings supports our process
At the same time, when the body is stuck in the past, it’s hard for the new thoughts and feelings to manifest in improved physical expression - the type of expression required for public speaking performance. From physical therapists to acupuncturists, many health professionals are beginning to talk about the way in which our life experience and our emotions, express as tense and bound muscle fascia.
Working with the voice - which is produced by the body - gives us a chance to transform the insecurity and limitations of our past.
Here are some possibilities for how to start:
Working with a coach over a period of months to improve your public speaking is an excellent investment. You’ll be surprised at how this will build your confidence and sense of agency in every area of your life. Make sure that you work with someone who addresses the voice.
When you are enjoying the communication, there is a satisfying exchange of energy, allowing you to connect with the person you’re talking to. Performance is a heightened experience. It can feel like a Herculean task to build a connection with the rows of people looking back at you.
And yet, it is totally possible!
If we want to unlock our performance power in front of an audience, it helps to understand group psychology. On a primal level, when we stand up in front of our group, we set ourselves apart from our tribe. In our ancient past, setting ourselves apart from our community threatened our survival – it still can.
It’s no wonder the phrase ‘I died on stage’ is used to express the feeling of performance failure. And feelings do not always align with facts - particularly in heightened performance situations. Connecting with your audience is not only necessary, but achievable. You can learn how to do this, step by step.
To cultivate your relationship with your audience, start by empathizing with them, as you prepare your material.
- Who are they?
- What do they want to hear?
- How do they want to feel?
If you have to deliver difficult news, think how would you like this news to be delivered to you?
Align yourself with your message, or rather, align your message with your values. If you can’t do this, you may want to reconsider your current role. It’s very hard to deliver a good performance as yourself if you don’t believe in what you’re saying.
This is a pernicious position to be in, and no amount of performance training can remedy this!
Too often we spend more time envisioning the nightmare moments of the past, instead of painting glorious scenes of the future.
I caught myself the other day doing exactly this - with my issue du jour - a problem I was focusing on that day. I noticed that I was writing a future script based on a past failure. I said to myself, “Stop painting that sad, tired scene - you need to spend time imagining your desired outcome!”
This can be hard when you’ve never experienced the desired outcome, and this was true for me too, at this moment. But I have a vivid imagination and I felt a lot better envisioning a happier scene. Envisioning is part of path-finding and planning. It’s how we prepare to do things. When we envision ugly scenes we start creating ugly scenes.
Here is my vision for you:
Imagine the feeling of standing up/stepping forward/turning on that camera. You have nervous energy in your stomach, in your solar plexus:
- Notice the way in which excitement is entwined with anxiety.
- Notice what you are excited about.
- Is it the chance to connect with your audience and be of service?
- Does it stem from your passion to communicate ideas?
- What do you want to say?
- Take a deep breath and speak on that breath.
- Imagine what it feels like to deliver an aligned message.
- Imagine the energy of your audience embracing you.
- What does it look like to feel completely received by your audience?
- Spend some time imagining your ideal reception - before, during and after.
I am passionate about helping people to empower themselves. The most exciting thing for me is to see the way in which clients expand to fill their outer edges – by which I mean, take up more confident space, not only in their work, but in all aspects of their lives. This work is transformative!