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Risky Business

authentic voice public speaking May 24, 2020

The Usual Suspects

Just yesterday I was having a very interesting chat with a client (ok, 99% of my chats with clients are classified as “interesting”, but bear with me…).

I don’t quite recall how it came about, but we found ourselves discussing the reasons people dread public communication situations.  The usual suspects emerged: nerves, hating one’s voice, feeling unattractive, not wanting to be looked at, not wanting to fail, not wanting to use the wrong words, and so on.  All legitimate.

And then I said: “Most of us have had moments when we - as public communicators - were rockstars.  When everything ‘clicked’ and we felt amazing.  Problem is, we have no guarantee when we’ll be stellar - and when we’ll suck.”

We both sat silently for a few moments.  She was thinking about my words.  I was thinking about my words.  

You see, I’d never actually captured that sentiment in precisely that way before.  And as soon as I said it, I could feel the truth.  

The Risk

It really does come down to that:  the risk.  When we regard public communication as a fraught situation, where failure is imminent, then our reaction (nerves, etc.) is concomitant with the perceived threat.   We are so afraid of exposure, being “seen” as “less than” that we don’t give ourselves (and the world, frankly) a chance to see us as we are - in all the full, freaky, once-in-a-forever being-ness that we possess.  Not perfect.  Far, faaaarrrrr from it.  And so what?  

Show me a “perfect person”, and I’ll show you some who’s delusional (hint: it’ll be YOU).

Of course, there are those that try to mitigate this “divined” danger by attempting to control everything - write down every word, memorize to perfection, choreograph every movement and gesture, practice every vocal inflection and nuance, style your clothing, hair, shoes, makeup and manicure to be utterly infallible.  And it might work. 

But the stress that goes into creating that moment - and the fear that it brings in the form of “what if” - is enormous.  Worse, it can give you a false sense of security, like you control it all.

Word: you don’t.

Let Go And Show Up

So, yes, prepare (I’m not advocating “seat of your pants” speaking).  Practice, work on your communication skills and style, learn about your audience, have a shower before you present - the normal, to-be-expected steps to effective public communication.  

And then let go - and show up.  This combination gives you the very best odds of being a rockstar.

It’s risky business, for sure, being you - and being real.  But it’s the most secure investment out there.