Speaking in public?
It’s a scary idea, right?
My point today is that everyone has the potential to become a bulletproof speaker, if…
If you choose a particular mindset.
More about that later.
First, let me tell you about my experience with public speaking. A couple of years ago, I decided to work on my public speaking so I joined Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is a great training environment and, in these two years, my confidence has increased exponentially. I began to wonder:
What makes you a bulletproof speaker?
Let’s first think about what bulletproof might mean.
I first thought of a flack jacket. As you know, a flack jacket protects you against bullets. It makes you bulletproof.
Bulletproof, according to an online dictionary means: safe from failure – sounds good, doesn’t it?
When I researched the word further, I found that one of the synonyms of the word bulletproof is impervious which means untouched by… or invulnerable to…
In terms of a flak jacket, it makes us invulnerable to bullets. But what if we want to become a bulletproof speaker?
Do we have to become impervious?
For many people dipping their toe into public speaking trying to be impervious seems a safe option. They stand well back, use the lectern as a shield, try not to look at the audience and try to disconnect themselves from their own feelings and fears.
However, if we are impervious, we cut ourselves off from the audience and no inspiration or encouragement can pass from the audience to us as speakers.
So becoming bulletproof as in becoming impervious is not the answer, right?
As I said before, being bulletproof can mean being safe from failure. That sounds comforting, but is it helpful?
Wobbling, falling, pulling yourself back up
Let’s leave public speaking aside and consider toddlers. When I was recently in Germany, I spent a lot of time with my niece and her family. Luke, the youngest, who has just turned one, is learning to walk. He pulls himself up, wobbles about, takes a step and then plops down onto his bottom.
And then he does it again and again.
Little Luke isn’t trying to be ‘safe from failure’. He just wants to learn how to walk, no matter how often he falls down!
This is the mindset we need to adopt if we want to become truly bulletproof speakers.
Do you Have a Growth Mindset or a Fixed Mindset?
If you have a growth mindset, you see yourself as work in progress, whereas if you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your capacities are fixed.
With a growth mindset, you can see so-called ‘failures’ as opportunities to learn and grow – like a toddler does.
A fixed mindset, on the other hand, prevents us from developing.
A few years ago, a friend of mine pointed out that I tended to call myself a ‘technical moron’, especially when faced with technical problems on the Net. She said, “Why don’t you stop saying that and see what happens?”
After a while, I noticed that I’m actually good at learning how to use new software, and this ability has now turned into one of the strengths of my online work.
I turned my fixed mindset into a growth mindset.
It’s the same with learning to speak in public. When you see yourself as work in progress and embrace your limitless potential, you are on the path to becoming a bulletproof speaker.
But what makes us BULLETPROOF as a speaker?
I’ll say more about that in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at the practical applications of having a growth mindset.
There are three main ways to support your growth mindset as a budding public speaker.
1. Set Approach Goals
You see, there are two different kinds of goals, avoidance goals, and approach goals.
Avoidance goals are things like: “I want to avoid using notes” or “I want to stop feeling anxious while I’m talking”.
Approach goals, on the other hand, are things like, “I want to communicate my 3 points clearly,” or “I want to enjoy speaking”.
As you can imagine, Approach goals are more useful than avoidance goals. And they are in line with a growth mindset.
2. Back Yourself
This means having the courage stand tall – and not diminish yourself. Often, a speaker will start with a kind of apology. They try to diminish what they are going to say or somehow apologize for being who they are.
Well, there’s a simple remedy: Stand Tall. Use good posture.
3. Be Open to the Present Moment
If you close up, if you become impervious, you lose connection to the audience. You also lose connection to yourself.
So, the question is: what makes us feel more open?
I have a simple answer.
What makes us feel more open is … to smile.
Here’s an experiment for you: For a moment, close your eyes and imagine being closed off from everyone. You are in your own little bubble. Notice what that feels like.
Okay, now open your eyes and smile!
Do you notice the difference?
So what’s the first thing you can do to open yourself up before starting a speech?
Look at the audience and smile!
So what does it mean to become a bulletproof speaker?
If you wear an invisible flak jacket, you become impervious. You can protect yourself, you can defend yourself, but you cut yourself off from others and from yourself.
What if you didn’t have anything to defend?
What if you were a ‘work in progress’ and were open to growing and stumbling, and learning – one step at a time?
What if you were open to the present moment? Open to your connection with the audience and their connection with you.
You wouldn’t feel alone, right? You wouldn’t have anything or anyone to defend.
That would make you truly bulletproof!
So if you want to become a bulletproof speaker, throw away your flack jacket and grow!
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To find out more about your confidence (and how to develop it), do the Confidence Quiz!