Are you aware of the face you show the world, and how others react to you? Here's how to be a top performer when you speak in public!
Would you like to speak with presence, poise, and professionalism on the public speaking stage? How about in interpersonal conversations, job interviews, networking, and meetings? If that prospect appeals to you, then you need to think about the face you show the world.
Because the truth is, you're giving a performance whenever you interact and communicate with others.
How you carry yourself broadcasts how you feel about yourself and others. Turn that to your advantage! Download my free cheat sheet, "5 Secrets of Powerful Body Language."
There's a well-known book about this by sociologist Erving Goffman, titled The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. In his book, Mr. Goffman states that each of us is giving performances, day in and day out every day of our lives. Have you heard the expression, 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do'? Basically, it means that you're always adapting yourself to the situation you're in and the people you're with. Then you do (and say) what you think is appropriate and useful.
The 'you' performing at work is different from the 'you' at home with your family, or the 'you' out with old high school chums, and so on. You play these roles effortlessly and easily, without even thinking about it. But if you're like most people, when it comes to a speech or presentation you may start to think of your 'PERFORMANCE' like that, in capital letters. This is something out of the ordinary! (It isn't, of course, since it's just another performance.) And all the spontaneity and natural way you have of communicating gets ironed out and becomes something far less interesting, because now, after all, it's time to speak for business.
There's a profound lesson here if you want to be a top performer when you speak in public. If you learn to treat a speech, presentation, pitches, panel appearance, and all the rest as just another performance, you'll be more relaxed and natural. And that surely means being more authentic. Can you think of a better way to look and feel like yourself, and to connect more powerfully with audiences?
What Face are You Showing the World?
This idea about you being a natural performer is important in terms of how you interact with others. Because other people perceive you in certain ways, and it affects how they think about you, and through you your team, department, and organization.
That means that whatever you do in your life—whether you continue to work for the organization you're now with or another one—people will be making decisions about you based partly on what you show them. That means eye contact, gestures, your proximity to listeners, how passionately you speak, and other similar behavior. They'll be deciding whether they can trust you, whether to believe what you say, how you feel about them, and whether they want to work with you.
So, what face are you showing the world? As an actor and speech coach, the work I do really comes down to helping people become more effective performers in all of those interactions. And the more you adopt the mindset of slipping easily into "just another performance," the more effective you'll be concerning communicating with all of your audiences, large and small.
The Chance at a Career Change I Didn't Take
I was reminded of this concept of the face we show the world a few years ago when I was seeing a physiatrist or rehabilitative doctor following meniscus surgery on my knee. When he found out what I do for a living, he said, "You know, you should work with patients who have had a stroke or head trauma, and have difficulty with their oral communication skills afterwards." I replied that I wasn't a speech pathologist, and I understood that speech paths are the people who help stroke victims recover their ability to speak.
He said, "No, what I'm talking about goes beyond that. I have a patient who suffered a severe head injury following an industrial accident, and afterward had trouble with self-expression. This patient went through a full program with a speech pathologist and is able to speak well again, but still feels that there's something missing in terms of the face he shows the world."
I didn't follow up on my doctor's suggestion regarding a career change, but I thought: He's right: that's exactly what's happening when we talk to others and they judgments about who and what we are.
Getting on the Right Wavelength with Audiences
Of course, it's those judgments that push us beyond the butterflies or jitters that help get us ready for our presentations, pushing us from everyday nervousness into speech anxiety. Since 2001, I've been helping people overcome their fear of public speaking, and my second book Fearless Speaking is on this topic. So I'm often asked, 'What's the one thing I can do to overcome stage fright?'
Apart from diaphragmatic breathing to help calm and center you, I think the answer is to get your head in the right place. You can—you must—stop thinking of yourself and put your audience at the center of things. Now, that's a bit of tough love if you suffer from fear of speaking. But I think it's important to accept that it really isn't about you. What will help you tremendously is getting on the wavelength of giving listeners what they need, rather than trying to look good.
Interestingly, providing audiences with what they need means giving physical expression to what you're saying. That's the topic of this blog on 5 ways body language can make you a better speaker, this one on body language errors to avoid, and this cheat sheet on secrets of powerful body language.
After all, what you actually show the people you communicate with (along with how you sound) is often as important as what you say. All three parts of that triad are necessary if you're going to be a top performer when it comes to public speaking.
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