Exposing Yourself through Public Speaking
I masticated a bit over the title of this article but came to a conclusion that, that is what I mean and that is what I have to say. One of the cardinal rules to succeed in public speaking is to say what you mean, and mean what you say.
May years ago, when I wrote my first ever book on public speaking, the HeART of Public Speaking, I placed on the cover an expensively purchased picture of a man speaking from behind a lectern to a highly engaged, happily laughing audience. The beauty of the picture wasn’t just in the fact that the audience looked extremely engaged, it was in the boldness of the fact that the speaker’s rear silhouette was butt-naked. I had my artist drape a gentle, heart-shaped shawl around the speaker and then the cover went ahead and said exactly what I had laid out inside the book. I loved it and so do those who still own that edition.
To succeed, to shine and scintillate at public speaking, one must do exactly that – expose your true self and then wrap yourself and your presentation with love.
How, you ask?
Well, you might have heard the saying that people would rather be in the coffin than do a eulogy. People fear public speaking more than they fear death. What we really fear is being exposed to scores of eyes that may not just see into us but that they may also see us through our charades. Our true selves might sometimes be timid, pretentious or arrogant. Or, worse scenario, people fear speaking up in the presence of large audiences because our agendas are unethical, and we say what we do not mean and mean what we are not saying. With scores of eyes watching our every move, every micro-gesture, every bead of sweat we can be called out for what we really are and what our true intentions might be. That is the fear.
This, of course, may not be everyone’s reason but the question remains the same – how do we expose our own true selves and yet be covered by a protective heart? Here are certain tips that I have picked up from failing, sweating and dying then coming alive a thousand times when in front of a large group of people.
First, recognize and live out ‘common humanity’. Tell yourself that the people out there are people just like you. Some smart and some not so smart, just like yourself. Tell yourself that they, too, have doubts, fears, anxieties, challenges and aspirations in life just as you do. Tell yourself that they are here to hear you no matter how profound or ordinary your spiel for them may be.
Second, generate loving, agape, feeling towards them. Though love resides in the hearts the activation of the desire to offer kindness, compassion and love is a function of the prefrontal cortex. You consciously tell yourself to be kind and loving, then the forty odd million neurons residing in your heart go to work creating love for your audience. When that happens, you radiate kindness, and kindness begets kindness. Sure, there is a chance that there may be one or two thick-skinned, bitter lemon of a person in the room who will continue giving you the heebie-jeebies. Just go on without them, they will eventually turn into sweet lemonade.
Third, according to international speaker par excellence, Scott Friedman, be authentic. What does that mean? It means expose your true self. You don’t have to talk like your college professor or like Chris Rock. Just be yourself. Let your flaws, your stutters, your accent be seen, felt or heard. Let your heart lead you and speak from the heart. If there is something you don’t know or are not sure, say exactly that, “I don’t know that, and I am not sure about that.” That’s okay. You are neither Solomon nor Google.
Fourth, also according to Scott Friedman, be vulnerable. Yes, you do not wear a tight blue suit with a red cape. You were not born on planet Krypton. You can bleed, and you can hurt. Expose all those sides of you that can bleed and hurt. Most people in the audience will relate to you, offer compassion and a much kinder ear if you pretend not to be a flawless, man of steel. Should the thick-skinned, bitter lemon hurl a rotten egg at you, say “Ouch!” and then right away forgive her for she knows not what she does. She knows not that you are human too. Keep doing the right thing and keep creating value with your words.
Fifth, is to become good at being light and funny as a speaker. Laughter is the shortest distance between two hearts, and humor is the vehicle that will drive you there. Some people are naturally funny, and others can get there through practice at public speaking. ‘Neuro-plasticity’, you know! The more you do something, the more you become that – in this case, funny. Just make sure to make yourself the butt of all your jokes otherwise, the thick-skinned, bitter lemon will stare you down to your death. Or, better still take up lessons from ‘the HeART of HUMOR.’
Of course there is a lot more to public speaking. There is this fact that speaking in public is about, as I have already said, creating good value. It is about inspiring people, and about leading them to a new and a better place in their lives. You can do it. Yes, you can because the brilliance and wish to shine is in all of us. It is in all of us to help, love and cherish all those that surround us but, first, we need to have the gumption to expose ourselves, our true selves.
I never let many copies of my first book, first edition, circulate in the marketplace because I was afraid. I was afraid that the cover was too brash, and it would scare away the conservatives. The thing is even though I’d written all about being brave, about being kind, authentic and open; I wasn’t brave, I was still a newbie to expressing myself courageously. Yes!
To wrap up, let me caution you away from that saying where public speaking gurus will tell you that to overcome your fear, you should imagine all your audience butt-naked. That, to me, is utter nonsense. Baloney! It is bound to scare the bananas out of you and sink you into the ground. It is best to, not just imagine, but be in your spiritual birthday suit when speaking in public. It is best to expose yourself as you are, bare your soul and your audiences will lift you up into the heavens. Have fun!
Check out my books, blogs and videos on Amazon/Raju Mandhyan.
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