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Justin Santiago, BAppSc (Hons), MBA, LLB (Hons) comes from a journalism, market research, intellectual property and strategic communications consulting background. Now based in Melbourne he spends his time advising businesses on how to communicate to their customers as well as writing on various subjects of interest in this blog.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Speak Without Fear

Joey breaks out in a cold sweat each time he goes to bed. Just after the lights go out his imagination goes wild. Monsters and demons start multiplying and coming out of every corner of the bedroom. This goes on until one day he discovers that these creatures only come out when it is dark and when he is alone. He realizes it is all in his imagination and he can choose to think about it and be fearful or just block it out of his mind and have a good night’s sleep.

We all feel a little bit like Joey each time we give a presentation. Every possible fear – fear of our colleagues laughing at us, fear of our capability being judged by our boss, fear of not looking good in front of our subordinates, start multiplying like Joey’s horrible monsters. There is a need to come to a stage of realization, just like Joey, so that we are able to deliver our message without fear. Or we can simply sleep with the lights on, hoping that the monsters and demons will go away.

I would like to challenge you to a simple test. Imagine that you are reporting what you have achieved in the last quarter at work. Your immediate colleagues and supervisor are seated in conference room. The lights are dim, the bright projector is on and colourful PowerPoint slides are being projected on to the screen. At the same time list down what you think your colleagues and boss are thinking as your presentation unravels. Write every little thought that they could possibly think of. Once you have exhausted your list take a deep look at what you have just written.

Now cross out all those thoughts that pertain to you rather than your speech. Notice how many crosses there are? Now look at those thoughts that remain uncrossed. This is what is REALLY on peoples’ minds when you are talking to them. People are interested to hear what you have to say rather then hear you. Get that big ego out of the way, you are not under the glare of the spotlight! It’s a bit hard to take but it’s the truth! You are the messenger and not the message. Get the thought “I am the important one here” out of your head and focus on how much more informed, persuaded or entertained your audience is going to be.

People who focus on their speeches instead of themselves find that they can immediately warm up to the audience. Their speeches are targeted at their audience, they look at their audience and they speak with and not speak at their audience. In no time their audience is eating right out of their hands.

If we are to succeed in speaking in public we have to stop thinking of presentations and speeches as a kind of performance but an act of communication. How many nights have we spent trying to memorize every word to the letter, thought about the exact second to crack that witty one liner, only to find that once the presentation is over we are back in our seats stumped by the number of stumbles, fumbles and blunders that sprinkled every other line.

There is no such thing as a perfect speech. No matter what, we will end up saying something that wasn’t planned or making an unplanned swaying of our hands. The important thing is to accept that such things happen and proceed as if nothing happened. What the audience is looking for is a well thought out speech that communicates clearly and directly and not a well executed triple somersault. Don’t worry about those in the audience who are more keen on looking out for mistakes. They are in the minority and are going to judge you no matter what. Focus on your speech and gaining the respect of the majority and not the attention of these few.

Justin Santiago is the developer and trainer of the two-day Speak Without Fear programme which has helped toddlers and university lecturers alike eliminate their fear of speaking to an audience.

1 comment:

  1. hi Mr Justin
    i finally found you!
    this is Esther..was once your student before.
    i do not have your email or contact..can you kindly email me to eljq0212@yahoo.com
    i need your help urgently! thanks


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