If I had a pound for the number of times people said to me, ‘ I am fine talking one to one with people, it’s just the thought of standing up and speaking to groups that send me into a tizzy…”, I’d be a very rich woman! What is it do you think, that makes normally articulate and energetic people suddenly freeze when they need to address groups of people? When I ask my clients these questions they typically come up with some or all of the following reasons. Do you recognise yourself in this list?
- Standing up and presenting is so formal and professional
- What if I forget my words or what I want to say?
- People are looking at me and judging me?
- There is so much preparation to do and I haven’t got the time or the know-how
- I feel so exposed – physically and content-wise
- If I go wrong – there is no way to recover
And so it goes on…
There is no doubt that public speaking strikes fear or at the very least some apprehension in the hearts of many many people. There’s the oft-quoted saying that most people would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy!
And those concerns about preparation, structure and exposure are totally understandable. After all, your audience won’t be well pleased if you stand up with no preparation: they can’t follow you if you have no structure: and they take a good proportion of your message and credibility from the way you deliver – so yes, you are exposed in that respect.
But these behaviours and actions are learnable. There are processes to help you work out your message. There are tools to help you sequence and structure your content. There are techniques to help you deliver to the audience so that, while they are looking at you, they are also fully engaged and involved in your content and mentally working with that rather than ‘judging you’.
There are some people who have the gift of the gab. There are some people who LOVE standing up in front of a group and can wing it incredibly well. There are fabulously articulate people who can use and weave language like a magician!
But most of us will need to learn, practice and perfect our skills.
But let’s just think about what happens when we are talking to people one to one. What’s the difference?
One to one’s are usually more interactive. We ask more questions. We listen to the answers and the responses guide the subsequent conversation.
We can read the other ‘party’ and make adjustments quickly and on the spot, picking up on what’s not being said and checking out what we think we are hearing.
We are often sitting down, feel less exposed and possibly more in control.
So maybe the real questions are, how can we get the interaction, reading the audience and control into presentations so we can feel as confident in these as we do in one to ones.
- Shaping our content so that engages the audience physically, mentally and emotionally is a good start. It starts with making sure all the content is geared towards the listening audience in the room and is relevant and beneficial for them.
- Reading the audience is what I call a secondary skill in that we often start to get really good at this once we have mastered the mechanics of preparing, structuring and delivering a presentation. A bit like when we have mastered the gears, mirrors and mechanics of driving a car, then we really start to notice the other traffic and the wider driving environment.
- Having a great structure, pathway and strong crafted opener and ending helps to be in control and I teach my clients clever tips to keep control of questions, slides and attention.
If you enjoy one to ones and are good at them, it’s not a million miles away from being able to take that knowledge, expertise and passion and translate it into a different format – and speak up with clarity, energy and impact!