By now you've probably seen Academy Award-winning director Michael Bay's most uncomfortable meltdown at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. And if you watch ABC News you may also have seen their piece on people who are crippled by stage fright. Not a pretty sight.
There aren't too many of us who don't get some level of debilitating schpilkis when asked to talk in front of people. It can be truly unsettling. But the reality is, in business -- as in relationships -- HOW you say things is more impactful than WHAT you say.
The name of the game here is CONTROL -- control over the three components that make up public speaking: WHO, YOU and the WORDS.
WHO are you talking to? Where are they -- conference room, auditorium? Need a microphone? Are you standing? Sitting? How big is the crowd? Where's your eye contact? And most important, take Thomas Jefferson's advice: The man did not like public speaking at all. He gave only two speeches his entire two-term presidency. But he understood that to connect with an audience in print or talk, you have to: "...use words that permit them to hear what they are listening for." That way, they have a much better chance of hearing what YOU want them to hear.
YOU. Research reveals that 93 percent of what listeners get off of you -- is YOU, yourself -- leaving 7 percent for your ever-so-well-crafted words. Marshall McLuhan was right, the medium IS the message. And the medium is you.
The first move towards control when speaking is understanding. What's the anxiety about? Where does it come from? Why and how does it affect you? Find a behavioral professional who can help you develop insight and understanding towards finding your comfort zone in the public arena.
THE WORDS. What are the take-aways? What do you want your listeners to walk away remembering? There are studies showing that an audience can retain up to -- but not more than -- three core messages. You'll be lucky to get only two key messages across, depending on the length of the talk. Your core messages, or talking points, have to be clearly stated -- several times. Repetition is a must -- more than you normally would in a social setting.
But core messages alone won't do it. You've got to deliver the drill-downs -- those specific examples that validate your core points. If you saw President Obama's recent State of the Union speech, he talked about our military veterans' sacrifices and turned to the gallery and Sgt. Cory Remsburg, a visually scarred veteran who was almost killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. It was a moving moment and amply reinforced the point the president was making. Quite frankly, without the drill-downs, all you've got is a lot of yada, yada, yada.
You also have to ask yourself, are you talking from notes, an outline, a verbatim script? If it's a script, how do you arrange and mark your script with notations for pauses, emphases, pacing, volume? Are you using a teleprompter? Visuals? They might help but too many of us hide behind the visuals. As a result YOU -- the 93 percent -- gets lost and it's you they're interested in, not your graphic skills.
Once you've gotten the WHO, YOU and the WORDS down, there's one final essential move to public speaking: PRACTICE -- again and again. Practice may not 'make perfect' but it surely will elevate your confidence level. And practicing with a video recorder is the very best way to rehearse. It's in the playback that the real evaluation begins. It's where editing or refining content happens. It's how you get to experience yourself as other do. Bring in a trusted friend or advisor. Show your video. You're looking for validation, sure, but also look for any adjustments to content and delivery style.
If you were uncomfortable watching the awkward Michael Bay melt down, then you understand why public speaking is listed as our No. 1 fear -- more than fear of heights, money or death. It can be controlled and overcome.
The nub to dealing with fear is quite simply this: insight leads to strategy, practice becomes habit and habit ends in confidence.