Bravo! You've just given a truly impressive performance in influencing others as a speaker.
Now, can you bring that confident and genuinely successful communicator into your meetings and presentations?
Are you comfortable enough to get on listeners' wavelength like this? Download my Free Tips and Tricks Guide, "20 Ways to Connect with an Audience for Lasting Influence."
What am I talking about? Well, there's no question that you're at your best as a speaker when you're not trying to be. That's you relaxing among friends, telling a joke, or enthusing about yesterday's big game. It all has to do with the natural skills you possess as a communicator, and knowing how to harness them for professional success in formal speeches, presentations, and virtual meetings.
How to Reach Your Personal Best in Public Speaking
Did you know that every time you speak to others, you’re giving a performance? And that the times when you’re getting through most effectively may be the moments when you’re not trying to perform at all?
Performance is such an essential part of our social lives, in fact, that we don’t recognize either the need to do it or our consummate skills in accomplishing it well. Much more so than the other primates, we are natural performers. But when it comes to speaking in public, for some reason we insist on telling ourselves we’re no good at it.
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That’s a mindset that inhibits both our comfort level and effectiveness.
When we underrate our own communication abilities, it keeps us from connecting effortlessly with audiences. We shy away from the invitation because we feel the task is beyond our abilities. Pitches, conference speeches, proposals to the leadership team, or speaking at all-hands-on-deck meetings are formal and intimidating situations. We consider them to be out-of-the-ordinary moments requiring exceptional skills, and wonder how we can ever rise above our quite ordinary competencies to perform them well.
But as sociologist Erving Goffman pointed out in his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, we are always performing. Because of the intensely social nature of our lives, we adjust our demeanor and actions—every day and in every situation—to fit in with the people and circumstance of the moment.
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The ‘you’ at your company’s Monday morning meeting, for instance, is different from the ‘you’ at home that same evening with your family. And that particular ‘you’ isn’t the same as the one who is attending your 20th high school reunion . . . and so on. Do you know the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”? That is exactly what you do when you adapt your behavior to the needs of the moment. And you do it easily and effortlessly, because you understand that it’s an essential part of being human.
So why do you feel that when it’s time to deliver a high-profile presentation, you have to become something better than your everyday selves? The attempt to do that is guaranteed to keep you from looking, sounding, moving, or feeling like yourself! Instead, all your natural spontaneity and rhythms get ironed out into a flat and uninteresting performance. After all, you’re speaking for business now. And we all know that means you have to be serious, even somber, right?
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You’ll never succeed—in life or public speaking—by displaying a carefully constructed version of yourself. The alternative is much more powerful. And actually, it’s a lot easier, since it’s simply performing your own life.
How Are You Performing Your Life?
Part of the reason this is such an important concept is that people can only react to the performance you’re giving. That’s true whether you’re delivering a speech or chatting with a neighbor at the supermarket. People gain impressions of who you are not by conjuring those perceptions out of thin air, but because you’ve given them something to perceive. Audiences and other listeners can’t read your mind to know how you really feel about what you’re saying. The performance you broadcast—in terms of voice, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, pauses, emphasis, the rhythm and urgency of your speech, along with other aspects of performance—is the one they will receive!
Audience (or listener) perceptions aren’t casual matters, either. People are deciding whether they can trust you, whether you’re knowledgeable about a topic, or if they should believe what you say. They are observing how you feel about them, and sometimes, your feelings toward yourself. If it’s a business transaction, they are very definitely considering if they’re willing to buy what you’re selling, or whether they want to work with you.
The good news is that you’re a natural performer at this. You already have every tool you need to make these interactions successful, and to instill comfort and trust in those listening to you. If you want to be an effective and successful speaker, then, it comes down to being an honest performer. In other words, being yourself.
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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.
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