Let me make a confession. I don’t like speaking in public. I know that I am good at it now – but it doesn’t mean that I like doing it. However,with practice and some technical assistance you would never know just by watching me that I am not at ease* when I am teaching public speaking!
I know, though, that I am not alone. In 2014, 25% of respondents to a survey* (by Chapman University on American fears*), said that they had a phobia about public speaking. 70% admitted that it was nevertheless critical to their success at work.
Another survey, this time of 600 employers, found that the top skill they were looking for in a candidate was ‘oral communication’ and ‘presentation skills’ was the fourth. More traditional management skills came much further down the list. in contrast, a poll* of over 2000 American workers found that 12% of them would actually let someone else take their place even if it meant that they would lose respect in their workplace.
BEING PHYSICALLY SEEN STILL IMPORTANT
We might be spending more time than ever behind screens of all sorts, but if we want to progress at work, being physically seen is still all important. IBM goes as far as to recommend that those who want to reach higher up the career ladder* to volunteer when it comes to opportunities for speaking in public. Harvey Coleman, an influential business consultant, suggests in his book ‘Empowering Yourself’*, suggests that there are 3 major factors in career success, and exposure is 60% of the reason, (with image being at 30% and performance only 10%).
EVEN BEHIND A SCREEN, WE CAN’T AVOID OTHER PEOPLE
Most companies recognise that public speaking is a necessary business skill. Often they expect even candidates for an executive position to do a presentation to an interview panel*. And with the speed of the internet being so fast today, even communicating ‘one-to-many’ via video conferencing tools is becoming common place.
In other words, if you are one of us who doesn’t like standing up in front of others, this does not seem to be good news. With so many examples of excellent speakers all around us, from some of our colleagues to speakers at TED events, we might feel justified in being intimidated. But I am proof, though, that this does not have to be the case.
DON’T FEAR “FIGHT OR FLIGHT”
Our brains are programmed to recognise threats* more easily than rewards. So if we have to face a group of people who we don’t know, it is simple to switch to ‘threat mode’. This makes our bodies go to the position of ‘flight or fight’* where adrenaline is released and our heart beat increases. If you are an athlete this is good news; not so good if you want to be standing still and calm. However, there are things you can do.
Most experts, (and myself from personal experience), agree that preparation is key. It does not mean that you need to memorise your whole speech, (because if you forget a some of it later on it could just make matters worse), but you should memorise at least your first few sentences to get you off and running. You should also make sure that you know the structure of your presentation off by heart as well.
If you can, visualise as much of your presentation as possible beforehand*. What is the room like? How is it set up? How many people will be there? Who will be present? The more you can visualise your presentation and what you are going to do, the more you will lower your anxiety, the better your presentation will be.
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR…
However, as you have probably guessed, there is no substitute for actually getting up in front of people. Take any opportunity offered, join clubs that help with public speaking, (for example check out your local toast masters or Meetup for groups), and of course you could always go on a training course!
We at Think Training have put together a series of courses to help you, no matter your level. And remember two things: 1 – it is not about you, it is about the audience and 2 – you are probably much harder on yourself than your audience will be!
- at ease = à l’aise
- survey/poll = sondage
- fears = peurs
- career ladder = échelons
- empowering yourself = s’investi
- interview panel – jury d’entretien
- threats = menaces
- flight or fight = de lutte ou de fuitte
- beforehand = à l’avance