How to get better at something

One of the things I am working on this year is my public speaking.  Long story short — it used to be something I relished doing, actively sought out; cue incident where something didn’t go to plan; cue long period of avoidance..

The avoiding got kind of annoying, so this year, I am taking steps to get back to where I was.

Plenty of people will tell you that they would rather go to the dentist than speak in public, and I understand the fear. But almost always — this is based around one internal thought “what if I make an idiot of myself out there, what will they think? Will they mock, laugh at me or worse?”

There’s a couple of things that I have learnt along my journey of avoidance, that might be helpful for you too:

  • Don’t make it about you — make it about them. You presumably have something to say — so say it. Think about the service you are delivering, whether that is knowledge or a speech of thanks. As Marie Forleo says: “Your attention’s like a flashlight. Shine it out on others, and you lose sight of your own fear.
  • If you need help with the mechanics of how to structure a speech, or how to deliver it, you can:
    • Get one on one coaching (my business partner Jaine specialises in this sort of coaching and has tips that are imminently sensible but make all the difference!)
    • Go to Toastmasters 
    • Go to a presentation skills / public speaking course
  • Know your content — if you speak on something you are familiar with, it is much easier than if you’re delivering something that is completely foreign to you.
  • Learn your first few lines by heart, so that you don’t need to refer to any notes until you’re already well into it.
  • Know your style — some people need notes, some people don’t.  Understand what works for you and then work with that.
  • Every single great speaker I know says that is it about practise, practise, practise. You don’t get better at something by avoiding it.. You get better at something by putting yourself out there, by learning, by failing(!), trying new techniques, getting feedback.
  • Remember, we are all a work in progress- hopefully getting better, developing and growing.

I tried something new this week when I gave my HR for Good speech. I realised that every single night I read to my kids, using silly voices; basically “performing”.. I just channeled a bit of that performance into my opening with a little story.. I liked it, I think it worked well, and I will  use that again next time.

So, if there is something you need to get better at, and it’s bugging you; or worse, causing you some sort of blockage in your career or brand etc, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s really behind why you don’t want to do it (this usually ends up being about fear in some shape or form);
  • Is not doing it causing you some sort of pain? Is it hindering you in some way? What is the impact of avoiding it?
  • Can you imagine how amazing it would feel if you did get to terms with your fear and conquered it?
  • What would it take for you to be ready and to start taking baby steps?
  • What baby steps could you take now?

The short answer is that you don’t get better at anything by avoidance. The only way to improve is to put yourself out there and practise. There is no other magic fairy that will intervene and just make you better. The magic fairy is you!

Until next week, happy leading.

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