Public Speaking Bootcamp: Deer in Headlights
BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
Public speaking. It’s a skill that can make or break your career path. If you freeze up every single time you talk and can’t express yourself clearly and authentically, you’re going to be held back. Communication is incredibly important in every single career, and public speaking is still one of the highly feared tasks for many people.
Before you say, “I’m just not good at this,” or “I don’t need more skills!” take a step back and take a deep breath. Over the past few issues, we’ve run a public speaking bootcamp to level up your public speaking skills. Whether you’re ready for your first meeting or first TED Talk, these skills will start the trajectory to you being the best version of yourself. Last month we discussed being in the moment with a brain lock and before that, warming up. Both are critical skills, but what happens when things seem to always go wrong? Then what?
This month we’re focusing on preventing those Deer-in-Headlight moments. Sure, life always happens, but speaking is still a skill, and skills can always be improved and refined. Here are three easy ways to build your skills to limit those “let’s crawl under a rock” moments:
Make Notes, Not a Script
When I coach people I always hope I get them before they work through everything they are going to say. Why? Yes, it’s more work, but it helps me caution against making a script.
Think about the last talk you gave. Did you write everything out word for word? If you did, you might have forgotten huge chunks: this happens when you memorize just enough to remember word order versus meaning and intent. Try saying the ABCs and skip the letters K, F, R, and M. It’s a struggle, right? Same thing.
When you’re working on what you want to say, make notes, not a script. If that’s hard for you, work backwards if you have time: write a script, then cut it down to notes. Notes should be keywords and phrases that connect to your larger ideas. They should cue you to remember the larger points – and notes will also make whatever you’re saying more conversational, because you won’t be overly memorized. While we’re on the topic of preparing…
The best way to get better at public speaking, speaking up, communication skills and the whole gamut? Practice. Not just before, which is imperative: do it as much as you can. The more you do something, the better you get.
The phenomenon of Going Against The Grain is in play here: you do the same thing over and over again, and nothing changes. When you try something new, your performance drops. If you stop doing that “new thing” you don’t grow – but if you keep with it, you rise above past performance.
If practicing with notes doesn’t immediately work, stick with it. This applies to meetings, work conversations, talks – the whole spectrum. Which leads to…
Quick! Channel the last talk you led or meeting you spoke up in! How did it go? What worked, what didn’t? What can you do differently and improve?
If you can’t quickly answer these questions, chances are you’re not reflecting. I might sound a bit like a broken record with this advice, and that’s ok. The more you hear it, the more you’ll do it!
Consider feedback: if it doesn’t happen immediately or close to the behavior it’s responding to, it’s not effective. The same is true with reflection. Make a habit of thinking about what went well, what didn’t, and how you can improve. By continually refining what you’re doing, you’ll always be improving.
Remember, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.