Seth Godin’s latest blog post is very wise (as usual!) and reminds me of something I often say to clients: the Zen of public speaking is realizing that it is not about you. Once you have that realization, you are freed up to find joy in the act of giving a speech.
Seth quite rightly locates the fear that most public speakers feel first in the idea that they’re being judged by the audience. And second in the notion that the talk is about them.
The first idea is easily disposed of when you realize that the audience members have voted with their feet and, far from judging you, are fervently hoping that you’ll teach them something and give them a good show. Otherwise, they’ve wasted their time. The audience wants you to succeed. Period.
The second notion is a little harder to shake. Speakers who get that they are the vessel for content that needs to be shared with an audience don’t experience fear like most speakers. It involves a shift in focus, from self to audience, from inward to outward, from self-consciousness to group consciousness. It’s not easy to make that jump in awareness, but if you can, you will be liberated to become a joyful public speaker.
Both of these ideas come from stories – based on insecurities – that we tell ourselves. The trick is to replace those stories with two new ones. First, that you and the audience are engaged in a mutual exploration, a journey of discovery of the content. You are the guide, the mentor, the leader.
The second is connected to the first. You are the mentor, and the important act that has to take place during the course of a speech is that the audience gets to go on the content journey. Otherwise the speech might as well have not taken place. It’s about the audience, not you.
The point of any communication is that the connection is made between sender, content, and recipient. The recipient has to get it – the content – for the communication to be successful. The sooner speakers redefine their roles as mentors and guides helping audiences on a journey the more joyful speeches there will be in 2014.