Do you hate public speaking/presenting in public? Different surveys I have looked at put those who do anywhere between 40 and 60% of the population - so that's a lot! During many of my workshops and events I can often see the terror on some faces when people know they have to present something back with the prospect of all eyes on them. As a result of this there is a lot of information, training, activities etc out there to help people overcome this often necessary evil fundamental to many job roles.
Of all the interventions that claim to help, some of my personal pet hates are the ones that just ask you to think positively-
- Those NLP visualisation and anchoring techniques: bringing to life powerful images and sounds in your mind that conjure up how you want to feel when presenting.
- Speaking positive affirmations to yourself out loud that tell you how good you are "This will go well, I know my stuff and they will be eager to listen to me"
- Just develop a 'positive mental attitude' (and all will be fine?!)
The self-help books are full of this stuff - and I'm sure they work for lots of people. But equally they can be dangerous routes to take. For example, the pressure to think positively can make for a greater shock and come-down when things perhaps didn't go how you expected them to! The Greek Stoic philosophers pioneered 'negative visualisation' which stood the test of time for hundreds of years and their work continues to be embraced by millions today. So perhaps think instead about the worst things that could happen when speaking in public....
- The audience will lose interest and routinely stare at their phones
- Someone will pose a difficult question and you will struggle to answer it
- It will all come across as confusing and difficult for the audience to follow
- You will stumble over your words or even worse: experience the brain-freeze!
So now you've thought negatively it will help you inject amazing structure, moments of great drama, story-telling and compelling expert content into your presentation/public speaking. When people tell me they hate addressing an audience I say "How would you feel if you had to tell the audience they were all about to get massive pay increases? Would you be scared and nervous about the prospect of doing that".....and just about everyone replies "No!" - because what they would be saying is going to get and keep people's attention and is not particularly objectionable! Obviously things like presenting style, energy, passion, tone of voice, body language etc all play a big part but it really therefore does come back to those two all-important words are content and structure. Thinking negatively encourages you to consider what you are saying and when you will say it in more creative and interesting ways; how it will excite the room and how it will dispel the biggest cynic! Because when you have cracked powerful content and structure you'll find that you will actually look forward to standing up and addressing that audience - which would be an amazing 180 degree turn for many people.