“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.” – Will Smith from the movie After Earth
My story begins well before I came across Susan Jeffers totally amazing book Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway®. I wish I had come across the book in my teens or even in my twenties. Till date, I am extremely grateful to this book and would recommend anyone at any age to read it. It is an easy to read no-nonsense, to the point and profound practical book which assists you to pass through your fears. And that includes your fear of presenting or as many would like to call it public speaking.
Engaging with others in a meeting, presenting in front of an audience or simply conversing amongst friends could be frightfully fearful for many. In my world, I define all these scenarios as public speaking or presenting.
There are some out there who are pros in this amazing art of public speaking. Indeed they deliver their talk exceedingly well but then there are those who consider themselves to be terrible, horrible and find any excuse to get out of it.
You could perform amazing, mediocre or just plain awful in delivering a talk. In all cases, it leaves an impression about you in the way others may perceive you. Many people who are facing a public speaking situation let anxiety, restlessness and fear over takes all their senses. For such people, public speaking is simply nerve wracking and a painful experience.
Through my lifetime I have been known to be an introvert by many. My friends and family members are surprised how do I manage to speak in front of hundreds and hundreds of people. When they and many others who interact with me see me on the stage feel the fun, passion and compassion in my delivery. Most of my friends and loved ones get an overwhelming feeling when they need to do presentations. After so many years, they are unable to grasp how an introvert like me manages to perform so well in such stressful situations.
Here is a secret that no one is aware of apart from the people I have been coaching in the beautiful art of public speaking. You too need to know I too had a great fear of speaking in public and even now before I deliver a talk the fear kicks in. The thing through the years I have learnt to manage the fear, transforming it into an energy that helps me outperform myself.
Turn back the clock and let go to 1995. This was my last year in university and I I had to deliver a presentation on a one-year project, the talk went horribly wrong. I embarrassed myself in front of my lectures and my classmates. I had just about scraped through to a pass for my presentation session. The whole event took me into a direction of being behind closed doors as a career. I went into IT. Strangely enough in all my IT roles, I would train people in using systems on a one to one basis.
Enters Craig Chapman into my professional life and the whole career game goes into a different direction. The man nurtures my natural talent of connecting with people into the realm of public speaking and presenting. With the guidance of Craig somehow I manage to overcome and manage my fear into an energy that regularly allows me to outperform myself and the added advantage to know how to better myself leading to polish and tweaking my delivery style.
In fact, I would like to say what Craig taught me was the SIZZLE. In other words:
- Support – recognise, identify and connect with those people who will inspire you to be better than you already are. They will take the time out to hone into brushing your skills to the next level. For me, it has been Craig Chapman, Stuart Beaumont, Dave Winpenny, Jon Underwood and Ben Fawcett.
- Involve – always get your listeners involved with your talk. Being from a technical background it was enlightening to know how in a technical talk a story makes a big difference. Stories, questions, humour, metaphors, silence are some of the things that involve your listener
- Zing – Without energy, enthusiasm, or liveliness you will be unable to connect with your listeners. You have to be vibrant and have a buzz in your talk. Ensure you induce quality a character that excites your listeners.
- Zang – it simply means excellence. Your aim is not perfection but excellence. Every time you deliver never be in the zone of try but simply do your best. Doing your best with all that you know leads you to excellence
- Listen – learn to listen to your listener actively, empathically and compassionately. Apart from listening to the questions of your listeners this means listening to the non-verbal communication that they display through their body language
- Evoke – stories, questions, humour, metaphors, silence apart from involving the listeners further lead them to recall, feel and conjure scenarios or memories that they can effortlessly relate to the talk.
I have taken the same approach with tweaks and bends while coaching an 11-year student, university student, university lecturer, business owners and thousands of corporate workers from junior to c suite level.
Note this is just the beginning of your journey.