In order to navigate the world safely and appropriately, we look for signs about what’s expected, how to behave, where to go. When we’re the ones in charge, it’s up to us to provide those signs and signals. And, crucially, it’s important to remember that we are sending signals even when we haven’t chosen them. When the flagger was done, he just walked away. In the absence of the flagger, it now felt like there were no rules.
The poster child for a security blanket masquerading as a Plan B is this–a person using notes she doesn’t need for her speech. I was coaching someone recently who clutched her notes like a person on a life raft, and she used them even for the first part of her speech—the part that is nothing but her own biographical material.
When my husband Charlie and I got married, we decided to memorize our vows rather than repeat them after the minister. For weeks before the wedding, I said these vows out loud—while I was running errands, walking the dog, in the shower. The whole vow is about fifty words, two of which were my name and my husband’s, but I was terrified that I’d forget something, or freeze, and the words would leave my mind entirely.
“What’s the trick here?,” you might think. “Extroverts are natural public speakers. No problem.” Well, yes and no.
Extroversion refers to how people get their energy; in this case, from being with other people. Many extroverts love to talk and really get their batteries charged from that kind of interaction.
But—surprise!—that doesn’t make them good public speakers. What extroversion does is make a person look forward to public speaking, to tend to enjoy the experience. And while that can help, it’s not the same thing as being good at it.
Points to remember if you’re an extrovert:
—Your natural enthusiasm is an asset! People like watching and listening to someone who seems glad to be there.
—Don’t lean so hard on this strength that you fail to prepare. Channel your excitement into a streamlined message.
—The biggest public speaking pitfall for extroverts is that they get so much energy from their audience that they go off track. It’s great to stay in the moment and be able to talk extemporaneously, but don’t let your ad libs take you down a rabbit hole. You can lose your audience when they feel like you’re talking to hear the sound of your own voice.
Check out more about Ignite’s coaching process here…
In my work, the concept of introverts and extroverts comes up often. How can I be a good speaker if I’m an introvert? I can’t be good at networking if I’m an introvert; what should I do? There is a fundamental misunderstanding operating here about the nature of these personality traits.
Introverts and extroverts can be great speakers, to audiences small and large. Introverts and extroverts can network and make small talk. The big difference is the effect such activities have on them.
Extroverts are energized by interacting with other people. Introverts are energized by being alone.
That’s it. Where do you draw your energy? Because of the stereotypes of both traits, though, we tend to think of introverts as reserved and shy, and extroverts as affable and gregarious. And introverts often assume they can’t be good public speakers, and extroverts (sorry), often think they’re better than they are.
Points to consider for introverts
—Use some of your charged-up alone time to prepare for your speech or presentation. Many introverts are thoughtful and reflective; think about how you want to connect with your audience.
—Practice. Out. Loud. Your voice is going to sound different than it does in your head, and the phrases and sentences you thought of may or may not work when you actually say them. Give yourself the gift of a real dress rehearsal.
—If you know you have a speech coming up, carve out time before and after to recharge. Don’t go straight into a meeting or a client lunch—that’s another drain on your energy. Give yourself time to get your battery out of the red zone.
Want to know more about Ignite’s coaching process? Click here!
I got to judge a debate tournament last weekend. It was fascinating—high school students discussed complex policy and legislative issues in much more detail than I could have.
The debate took a specific format, with students alternating speeches in the affirmative and negative about the proposed legislation. Each student also stood for questioning when their speeches were over.
How do you “judge” this? What does it mean to weigh in on how good a job someone does in this area?
I was moderately familiar with most of the issues they debated, but not all. Sometimes there was a disconnect between the rationale of a speech and the confidence with which the student gave it. If I already knew about the topic, I could look past the delivery. If I wasn’t, I had no idea if the student actually knew what they were talking about. I relied then on the questioning of the other students to give me a hint as to whether the speech held water.
The delivery of the speech shouldn’t affect our interpretation of the content—but it does. And this is always true, not just at high school debate tournaments. The first thing we do when we’re looking at someone else is assess whether we can trust them. And when what they say is at odds with how they say it, we decide we can’t.
When I coach clients, they often say “I do fine when I know the material.” That makes sense—we feel more integrated, less vulnerable, when the content of our speech is familiar territory.
Here’s the trick, then—how can we behave as though we’re confident about our material, even when we’re not? How can we close this gap between seeming and being, so that the audience can trust us and listen to our message?
Do you have a speech or presentation coming up soon? Need help?
Each Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok post is set up to collect “likes.”
Let’s say you post something that you feel good about, maybe a photo of a hike you took along with a cute caption. You post it, and a few hours later, there are a few comments and likes. You notice, though, that another friend has a short video of the same hike, and there are scores of enthusiastic responses.
If this happens enough times, it could start to change your behavior. Not just in what you put online, but in how you’re thinking about your life and its like-ability when you aren’t online.
Next time you’re on a hike, you make sure your phone is charged, and as you’re walking, you look for the most photogenic stretch of the trail. You take several videos so you can choose the best one to post. Sure enough, you get dozens of likes and comments.
Positive reinforcement really does train us to do what others like. This is great when we’re training puppies and teaching kids not to throw food across the room. But people in a culture that strives for likes may be less willing to be disagreeable in order to stand up for what they believe in. People who understand their value as a result of social media approbation haven’t exercised the muscle that allows them to step away, stand apart, be on the outside.
Being likable seems like it’s a good thing. But too much of a good thing is too much.
Find out more about working with Ignite here…