Speaking helps me develop my business, so I was thrilled to glean tips – and here, share them with you – from Pam McAllister. Pam is a powerful coach who helps entrepreneurs, professionals, authors, and leaders master the art of public speaking. Once terrified by stage fright, she knows first-hand that speaking can be learned by anyone. I love her focus on bringing ease and authenticity into speaking, too. Read on – and enjoy! (Be sure to check out Pam's free training calls as well.)
Pam: That fear is something we learn at a young age. Sad to say, it’s rare for a child to feel fully seen, fully heard, fully accepted as they are. Most children are subjected to criticism and even shame when they speak in front of groups. So they learn the habit of self-consciousness, which is at the root of speaking anxiety.
The good news is that fear of public speaking is something we learned. We were not born that way. So we can unlearn it, given the right conditions and guidance. Tweet this tidbit!
Unfortunately, most conventional public speaking training ends up reinforcing the habit of self-consciousness. That’s why many people continue to struggle with speaking anxiety, even though they’re working hard to improve.
Power Chicks: Wow – that surprises me. Training can actually be counterproductive?
Pam: It’s true. And while I could say more, here’s the short version: Most public speaking training assumes that speaking is a performance. So the emphasis is on preparing, planning, practicing, eliminating defects, polishing your performance. The aim is perfect delivery, perfect performance.
If perfection is the goal, is it any wonder people continue to have performance anxiety?
And I have to say – conventional training can be a bit superficial. It’s all about technique, outward appearances, making you look good.
I take a different approach. Instead of thinking so much about yourself and your performance, pay more attention to the quality of your relationship with the audience. That’s where the magic happens, in the relationship.
Power Chicks: I love the idea of having a relationship with your audience instead of performing at them. Can you say more?
Pam: The relationship is everything. Your presence as a speaker is more powerful when you learn to connect and be with each person in the room, see the best in them, listen to them even while you’re speaking, and be fully present for them in the moment. Love them. They’ll feel it. They’ll know that you see and understand them.
An audience is drawn toward you by the quality of your presence and your relationship with the people in the room. And this is missing from most training.
Power Chicks: I’ve heard you say to reject “constructive criticism.” What do you mean?
Pam: Yes, I do tell people to stop accepting criticism. I can go on and on about this—it’s one of my favorite topics. But here’s the idea in a nutshell: For most people, “constructive” criticism erodes confidence and heightens self-consciousness. That’s true even if it’s given gently and “sandwiched” with positive feedback. Tweet this tidbit!
People seem to forget that this is a perfectly normal response. It has to do with how our brains are wired. So it’s not realistic to expect everyone to welcome criticism with open arms. And yet that is what’s expected.
It’s even more serious than that. I’ve had people—accomplished, capable, outstanding individuals—tell me that the fear of criticism stops them from going to public speaking training at all. Their fear of reacting “badly” to criticism becomes yet another source of shame and anxiety. And they may end up not speaking, which is a loss for all of us.
I also want to point out that criticism is never “objective.” It always carries the assumptions of the person offering it. Listening too much to others’ opinions can push you into a standardized way of speaking that may or may not fit your particular personality and gifts. Your special magic gets lost in the process.
And it’s all completely unnecessary, because there are effective ways to develop as a speaker without any criticism at all.
Power Chicks: But how do people improve their speaking if they’re never told what they’re doing wrong?
Pam: Well, there are proven methods that use only positive feedback, in the form of brief comments that point you to your strengths as a person. When you’re fully supported in speaking—and have the experience of being fully seen and fully heard in an unconditionally positive environment—you naturally develop confidence, ease, and presence. I’ve seen it happen quickly, with remarkable progress happening even in a single session.
The natural outcome is that speaking anxiety starts to float away and you become a more authentic and competent speaker.
Even if you don’t suffer from speaking anxiety, these same methods let you connect more deeply with your audience and build a relationship of genuine trust. And that’s the strongest foundation for inviting your right people to become your clients or customers.
By the way, there’s a very simple way to see what you want to change about your speaking. Have yourself videotaped, then review the video by yourself. Just remember to be compassionate and gentle on yourself as you watch, even as you note changes you’ll make next time around.
This does not have to be difficult or painful! Finding your voice can be joyful every step of the way.
Power Chicks: What are your top three pieces of advice for readers who want to use public speaking to build their businesses?
Pam: First, know that you can do this, with the right support. Believe me, if I can learn to become comfortable—and even happy—in front of a room, anyone can.
Second, be selective about the training you get. Make sure it’s nurturing you as a speaker. Just because it’s “what everybody does it” doesn’t mean it’s right for you. I encourage you to look around, beyond the standard options, to find the right fit.
Third, be strategic about your speaking. Make sure you have a way to turn a warm relationship with your audience
into action that builds your business. That means being selective about your speaking engagements, making sure you have follow-up systems in place, and defining how speaking fits into your business model. It’s the combination of presence, relationship, and strategic action that will really boost your business.
Pam McAllister offers free training calls on public speaking, which give more great info! She can teach you how to speak with ease, discover your core message and most compelling stories, craft powerful presentations, be yourself with an audience, and inspire people to take action on what you have to offer. More info at Pam McAllister.
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