Don Hutson is a world class public speaker and past President of the National Speakers Association. His decades of experience made him the perfect person to sit down and discuss the art of public speaking.
He was waiting in the back of the room after I gave a speech. I noticed him out of the corner of my eye, a young man who obviously wanted to ask me something. If you’ve spoken to large groups, you’re used to this. Someone who has a question but didn’t get called on during the Q&A or who only wants to raise a question privately.
When I turned to him, he shifted to the other foot, his nervousness seemingly evaporating with the movement. He confidently asked a question that I have heard in various forms over the years. “Skip, you’ve been the CEO of some large companies. What do I need to do to get promoted at work?”
It’s a simple question and the answer could be extensive. There’s so much to learn about leadership that it’s almost a paralyzing question.
Fortunately, it wasn’t new to me and so I had a ready answer.
“Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” -Jim Rohn
There really are three skills that I think help you stand out at work. When these three skills are mastered, it isn’t always apparent why the person is promoted. It just seems natural.
In other words, sales skills. Many people think of sales in the wrong way. They think of it as manipulation or “pushing something.” The greatest sales people, persuaders, and influencers are not pushing a false narrative or unethically exploiting others. They are great listeners, look for ways to help solve problems, and are genuinely interested in others.
Influence is a complex skill worthy of filling volumes of books. It is not only based on what you do, but on who you are. Helping others become influential is one of the major goals of this website. It’s my hope that regular readers will see their persuasion and influence grow over time.
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” -Ken Blanchard
In other words, public speaking. It may be in small groups or in large ones, but those who overcome the fear of speaking – and become good at it – are significantly more likely to see promotions than those who don’t.
Over ten years ago, I found myself in a class for leaders and managers. After building rapport and working to create a safe environment of trust, the class facilitator decided to have us go around the room and share our insecurities and fears. The coach was specifically homing in on our weaknesses and asking for us to be transparent with others in the room.
As we worked around a small circle, one woman was visibly nervous. When it was her turn, it was as if someone flipped a switch and turned her red. She stumbled over her words as she explained how fearful she was to speak in public. Even in a safe situation with supportive friends, she still was nervous to share. We learned that she even had nightmares where she was in front of a room, perched behind a podium, and she misplaced her notes and looked out at a sea of unforgiving faces. Another attendee encouraged her and told her that she was better off avoiding these events so she didn’t trigger her fears.
The fear of public speaking grips many people who avoid it at all costs.
I want to share why this “avoidance thinking” is toxic to aspiring leaders.
“Fear the fear of public speaking and do it anyway.” –Arvee Robinson
Recently, I spoke to my local chapter of Toastmasters and shared 7 reasons why learning to speak in public is vitally important.
1. Overcome your fear.
There’s enormous power in mastering and overcoming a fear, whatever it is. I can recall the smile on a new rock climber’s face when he conquered his fear. “I have never felt so alive and free,” he said to me soon after completing his climb. That same feeling happens if you overcome a fear of public speaking, and – at least to me – it’s a whole lot easier than climbing a mountain.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, and to sit down and listen.” –Winston Churchill
When you not only are able to overcome your fear but also become proficient at it, then your confidence soars. Confidence is often more compelling than competence. I don’t know what happened to the nervous woman after the class ended, but during the few days of our classes, she saw remarkable improvement. You could feel her confidence building.
“Competence without confidence just doesn’t cut it.” –Derek Lewis
Great public speakers attract opportunities. Why? Speaking makes you visible. You’re in front of the room, so that’s rather obvious. But the fact is that your credibility is enhanced. You become an expert.
“It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach, just get them to fly in formation.” –Rob Gilbert
Leadership is all about influence, about persuasion, about taking people from one point and moving them to another. Speaking is part of that process of persuasion and often the most powerful part. Anything that helps increase your influence is generally a good move.
“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
It could very well be because you didn’t know your natural style. By not knowing your unique strengths, you missed the opportunity to tap into what works for you.
If you want to be a better speaker or just improve your comfort level in front of groups, this post is for you.
Scott Schwertly is the founder and CEO of Ethos3, a presentation design and training company with clients ranging from Guy Kawasaki to Fortune 500 Companies. In fact, I personally utilized Ethos3 for two major keynote presentations. I can speak from personal experience that Scott and his team are exceptionally talented at creating memorable presentations.
Why is self-awareness so important for presenters?
Self-awareness is absolutely critical for presenters because it means they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses when giving a presentation. It also showcases that they are clearly aware of which audiences will adore them or challenge them. Without this knowledge, a presenter can only guess and assume, which is a dangerous situation.
“Self-awareness is probably the most important thing toward being a champion.” –Billie Jean King
There are sixteen different types of personas. Would you share just a few of them? (would love to include the graphic of the 16 if it is available).
That’s correct. There is a total of 16 presentation personas. All are different and each consists of its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. A few of my personal favorites are the Liberator, Activator, and Scholar. The Liberator is someone who is incredibly well rounded where they score high in all 4 quadrants of the Badge assessment. The Activator is your classic sales personality where this type of presenter excels in front of a room, and people love them. The Scholar is the exact opposite of the Activator where they are a verified expert and have a durable message but they may not be great in front of a room.
Where can I take the assessment?
Anyone can discover their presentation persona right now. They can do so by visiting Ethos3’s Badge page. The assessment takes about 10-12 minutes to complete. It’s super-fast. Also, readers should pick up a copy of What’s Your Presentation Persona? to understand their results/profile.
Stop One Thing
What’s a presentation stop-doing list?
Most people today are constantly trying to add items to their plate. They want to read more books, take more courses, exercise more frequently…the list goes on and on. Most presenters are no different. They are trying to do too much, and it simply is not sustainable. Instead, I would suggest instead of adding 7-8 proactive items, why not just stop one. Let’s say a presenter wants to read one presentation book a week, subscribe to 30 presentation blogs, practice 10 times before every presentation, and attend a presentation training course every quarter. That’s admirable, but it may not be doable. Why not just stop being lazy with your presentations or stop short-cutting your content development process? Stopping one thing is much easier than adding ten items.
Speaking Tip: stop one thing to improve your presentations.
This is a guest post by Steve Brown and London Speaker Bureau. Steve’s writing on various sites focuses on business related topics. Steve reminds us of a critical component of confident public speaking.
Public speaking remains one of the biggest fears for people around the world; even some of the greatest public speakers admit to stage fright before giving a talk. There is plenty of information available on how to overcome these nerves: to practice, evaluate and fully know your material. However, there is one thing which is frequently overlooked and yet can make a powerful difference to any speech.
“When you own your own breath, nobody can steal your peace.” -Unknown
That thing is breathing. By simply controlling your breathing, you will be better able to project your voice and people will hear you. People respond to confident, positive voices and will often not register someone who is speaking nervously. To become a great speaker, follow these breathing tips:
Posture matters the most when speaking in front of an audience
Standing correctly allows your lungs to fill with air and makes you look taller and more confident. To do this, stand with your feet apart in line with your shoulders, put your shoulders back, your ribcage in and your arms by your side.
Breathe deeply to relax your voice and calm your nerves
Now that your lungs are able to be filled with air, you will need to take a deep breath. You can see the affect of this by placing one hand on your chest and the other on your belly button. Concentrate on your stomach moving, not your chest. Exhale and repeat until you are comfortable doing this all the time.
“Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent.” -Dionysius