Tricks of the Trade and other savory delights

You know, I really wanted to be able to make a speech, go out in front of an audience and say something. Make my mark, have everyone go “ah-ha” and ‘wow” ”. When my chance finally came, I was a complete disaster. Nerves took over and worst of all, I stood there looking out at the 35 people that were there to listen to me and no words would come from my mouth. I was half way through my 20 minutes on the floor….

The beads of sweat rolled down my forehead (and as you can see, I’ve got a big forehead.) The more I tried to dig myself out, the more I stood there as if glued with that superglue… one drop holds a ton!!! I turned to the whiteboard behind me and picked up a marker. I knew that I had to write “DO IT” because that was the subject I was supposed to be an expert on. My arm, yes my whole arm was shaking so badly that I wrote ‘dOil~’

Wiped it off and tried again. All the time, there was silence. You could have heard a pin drop and you could certainly hear the sounds of droplets of sweat hitting the timber floor beneath my feet. I was being very careful now as I was conscious of slipping over which would have been the final humiliation…. DO IT

I turned to face my audience, some were fidgeting, some were still. ALL were looking right into my eyes, I sputtered out… “Do It” and one person nodded… he nodded… he understood… I found another word “because”…( what a stupid word to use, because, because what??) “because if you don’t”…( yeah right, because if they don’t they will look like me… dumb!) “because if you don’t do it, nothing will get done” (phew got through that sentence, what next?)

A couple of others smiled, another nodded. I was going to make it… Slowly but surely I extracted myself from the grips of terror and with a great deal of luck finished 5 minutes early. They all clapped, more out of pity I thought, than anything else, I was a failure!!!

Afterwards there was coffee and biscuits. There was plenty of conversation and people came up to me and thanked me, said they enjoyed it, said they learnt something… (I can imagine.. they learnt not to speak to groups, haha!!!)

Then it was over. Three of us drove away from there. Debrief time

“Well, what did you think?”

“Pretty good really, I didn’t know you were so funny”

He thinks I’m funny, I made that much of a fool of myself?

My other friend chimed in “I don’t know how you can get up there and look so assured of yourself”

I swore, using words that I learnt on a building site somewhere in my past

“What about the stuff up in the middle?”

“Did you stuff up? I didn’t really notice, I noticed you didn’t write DO IT very clearly”

I was amazed, these two friends were supposed to be bright and here they were…oblivious. and what’s more they didn’t even see my major stuff ups.

In the morning I found a quiet place to reflect… Central Station, Sydney, peak hour. Couldn’t hear myself think, thank goodness because all I was going to do was criticise myself.

Within the week I had signed up for a presentation workshop. Come prepared with a five minute presentation. You will receive a video critique, and workshop notes. It was 5 hours long. So I arrived. The presenter sat all six of us down and said “who’s first” and then he made us all present our prepared speeches, one by one, one after the other and he videoed it. No help, no advise, get up and do it. One of our group, a lady of about 55 years old, stood up and gave us facts and figures about statistical analysis in large organizations. I nearly fell asleep.

I struggled through mine. I figured I only had to remember half the stuff I talked about a week before so I should be right. Lights, Camera, Action… Then the workshop started. We learnt some good points about breathing, slowing down our thoughts and speaking, gestures and the like.

Presenting can be one of the greatest fears anyone can have. There is also an idea that confidence in this speaking arena is something you either have or you don’t. In actual fact, this confidence is just a skill, and it’s a skill that can be learnt by anyone. There are keys to unlock this confidence in your speaking ability

1/ Reframe the Fear… The physical symptoms you get when you are nervous are the same as when you get excited. The only difference is the way we think about the experience Start looking at this fear as excitement. Start to talk yourself into excitement rather than talking yourself into being fearful

2/ Breath… Most of us, when we get under pressure, change our breathing technique to shallow. We need to remember to physically breathe deeply; we need oxygen to perform at our peak. We get this by breathing deeply.

3/ Focus on the Audience… If we concentrate on ourselves we tend to become self conscious, concentrate on the audience… What do you want them to do? How do you want them to feel?

Before you go out under those bright lights, forget about what you are going to say and focus on your breathing. This will allow you to be more relaxed when you get out there and able to concentrate on what you want your audience to experience. Remember to stop and take a deep breathe during your speech. It can be a moving moment that allows the audience to reflect on some point and it energizes you with more oxygen to the system.

Another interesting fact is that the words you say make up only 7% of the impact you have on your audience and the tone in which you speak makes up a further 38%. Your physiology, in other words, the way you present yourself, stance, your gestures, confidence/breathing, energy level etc makes up a staggering 55% of the total communication package. So you can see that if you were to just go out and present yourself in a confident manner without speaking, theoretically you would impress 55% of your audience (and you haven’t said a word)

Then it was back to make a second video. Everyone of us threw out our notes and spoke from the heart. The 55 year old statistician got up and the first words she said were, and notice that I can still remember them, “I am a very sexy woman” I couldn’t tell you about the rest of the speech but we all hooped and hollered. It was brilliant.

The videos showed how we felt at the beginning and at the end of the workshop.

More importantly, we learnt something about the audience. The audience isn’t there to judge you, they have come to learn something. They wish you to do well. They don’t want to see you fail. Each person in that audience feels for you or rather, admires the fact that you are up there (dare I say) DOING IT.

Cheers… Bill

Bill is a Business Coach. Working with Individuals, Businesses and Organisations to create better environments and to develop and enhance business ”potential”, into successful business practices.

Sydney, Australia

Ph +61 413 949 521

Copyright ©Bill Gray All Rights Reserved 2004.