In my experience, people generally hold irrational fears concerning public speaking; in a recent survey, I think some people feared death less than talking to their peers. As educators public speaking is part of our daily role, most teachers won’t bat an eyelid about speaking to a class of 30 or in a whole school assembly. It’s the same thing.
But Pran the pupils aren’t judging you!
Er, I hate to tell you this but they are. The difference is through practice you’ve shielded yourself from their judgement.
All leadership involves interacting with followers when engaging people outward-facing leadership, that delivery and words are as crucial as the message and vision you are propagating. Remember, these followers are not part of your organisation, so, do not know your day to day, see who you are as a person or what you live and breath.
I struggled with the concept of deliberately influencing, those of you who have shared my journey will know that my aim was never to climb the leadership ladder, my core purpose was solely around being the best teacher I could be. As time goes on for a multitude of reasons things change.
Early, while in middle leadership, my line manager told me that all leaders have to be Machiavellian, that I had to work on being manipulative, that you had to get people to do what you wanted by these means. I was repulsed. I felt that my leadership style would always be around the propagation of my vision and being a person of integrity, being who I said I was and walking to the walk.
It took time to realise that this ‘vision propagation’ and the nobility around integrity were while fundamental parts of my character are were also forms of manipulation. Even typing that now it makes me shudder. The negative connations around those words still don’t sit right with me. Let me rephrase; leadership is about charm.
To charm followers, you have to become adept at influencing. A blog on the influence framework is here.
Delivery – Reducing Anxiety.
Get your content right; Live and believe what you say. If you value what you have to say, so will the audience. I rarely write a word for word script for a keynote, workshop or a lesson, mostly because I treat each session like a huge classroom, and I feel the room, let it be organic and let yourself be yourself.
Try and rationalise your fears; Why are you scared? What in particular? Is it that your message isn’t good enough? Or your delivery won’t be good enough? It usually is the latter, and this is just another form of imposter syndrome. Please own your message and part of the delivery should come as a consequence or the imposter will own you.
Improving your Practice.
‘You’re a great speaker Pran’.
My response to this statement is always a short and curt ‘thank you’; I have spent hours practising. I’m not just saying that I mean thousands of hours. Like everything in this world, nothing of value comes easy, and everything can be learned.
Record yourself and listen to the way the words sound and flow, decide what you want your style to be.
I need Powerpoint Slides and Notes
Going ‘naked’, no notes, no props, and no PowerPoint slides.
Advantages to going ‘naked’ are that it is more human, it invites people in, it allows you to interact more naturally and adapt as a result of the audience. Some of you may be cringing reading this; speaking is difficult if you see these aids as crutches, are you using them to mark your timings or place holders? There is generally no need for any props of any kind. Before using props, including PowerPoint slides, ask yourself the acid test question: does it add to the experience of the audience? If your answer is no. Drop them.
Memorising two hours plus worth of material can be daunting. Various speakers use different techniques. Split your talk into sections and instead of using slides as place holders use associations,
Saying to teachers’ we have work to do!’ (no matter how much energy I put into those words) – It’s like asking footballers to juggle as they run. We are flat out already. I get it. The BBC have literally interviewed me about the anxiety, sleeplessness and depression that seem to come with this amazing job. Like a whole range of anti-bonuses!
To memorises the above content from my TEDx talk, my brain goes through the following processes,
- Teachers work hard, so lots of energy is needed.
- Then I picture footballers juggling on BBC’s match of the day.
- This takes me to my BBC appearance.
- Finally, footballers get massive bonuses, and teachers get anti bonuses.
Do not ever use someone else’s material, apart from the plagiarism and inauthenticity, and your brain will fight those words.
Volume, Tone, and Silence
In the main, talk like you are talking to a standard room, a class of pupils, if you have a microphone, especially if you have a beard, hold the microphone at 45 degrees and a couple of inches away from your mouth. Sometimes the raising of voice can mean that you are pouring more energy into those words; sometimes, the lowering of volume can also feel the same. You and only you are the judge and master of the way you choose to come across.
Silence is a seldom-used tool in public speaking. In everyday interactions, silence is typically illicit people to fill the uncomfortableness with words, the social constructs around public speaking mean that instead of words people ponder and ruminate. When you want people to think, pose a point or a question and stop and wait.
Final Checklist – Work Out…
- What do you want to say?
- How do you want to be perceived while you say it?
- The words can be secondary to the delivery and vice versa. Listen to and be critical.
- Enjoy it.