If one of your goals in business is to be an excellent presenter, it's time to get over yourself.
There should be a much larger shape than you on your radar screen—one that looks exactly like your audience.
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In fact, the more you're concerned with the excellence of your performance, the tougher you're making it for yourself to succeed.
Hey . . . Stop Working Against Yourself!
Let's focus on that word for a moment: succeed. I mean, let's get right down to the core question here: succeed at what? The purpose of every speech or presentation is to speak to the needs of the audience. That's why there's a speaker and a group of people to listen to him or her in the first place.
It's always about your listeners, never about you.
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So, if you're aiming for personal success in a presentation—by looking good, being recognized in your industry, getting a promotion, kicking ass—you're in the wrong game. Sure, it's human to have those desires; and there's nothing wrong with them as secondary considerations when you're speaking in public.
But you will never be a truly effective presenter if you place them above the audience's concerns. I'll go further than that, and say this: you should obliterate them completely from your mind BEFORE and DURING your performance. The reason is simple: they are huge obstacles that stand in the way of public speaking success, because they reveal that you're focusing on yourself instead of your audience.
If that's what's going on, how will you achieve every speaker's purpose, which is to make your audience's lives before for having listened to you? Not your life better—theirs. Instead, embrace the actor's paradox, which is the key to succeeding on stage: you can't give a good performance by trying to do so.
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Zen in the Art of Public Speaking
I often think that good public speaking is zen-like, in that instead of aiming at the target . . . you have to aim somewhere else. Or perhaps, at something else. Aiming at that "other place" means to speak about the audience while you seem to be speaking about the topic! Shooting for a target that has YOU written all over it, on the other hand, is to place yourself in the middle of the path so that the audience's journey becomes impossible.
Here's your formula for success, then: Try to DO good, not be good. For the former leads directly to the latter. As I tell my clients, the best thing that could ever happen to you when you speak is to disappear. Become the message, I tell them. If someone asks you how you did, i.e., how well you think you performed, your answer should be, "I haven't the slightest idea."
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. Contact Gary here.