What could the 2 possibly have in common? That was my thoughts as well….until last night.
I was speaking to a young man who is determined to become a pilot in the Australian Air Force. I assumed (very wrongly) that the process would be to firstly enlist then go through due process. The conversation which ensued was very enlightening.
He told me the best way was to in fact apply to become a pilot without actually having joined the Air Force. He went on to explain the various processes and steps he had to go through. Sadly he was not successful and had stumbled at the last hurdle which was an interview with 3 officers and a psychologist. Not to be discouraged and highly motivated to succeed he was currently two thirds the way through with his second attempt.
As we know, one of the most critical things in improving in any aspect of our lives and businesses is feedback. Be it from our customers, work colleagues friends and family, constructive feedback is important. So naturally I asked, whether he was either provided feedback or there was a process to request feedback to clarify or identify areas which needed to be addressed. I was stunned with his response……..the FIRST recommendation was to improve his Public Speaking skills. I was speechless (which for those who know me is a rarity!). He went on to explain that they felt he lacked conviction in his responses and that to be a leader he required better speaking skills to articulate instructions or orders or respond to situations requiring fast responses. Also by his own admissions he was terrified standing in front of just 4 people! I was blown away but then got to thinking.
I am constantly faced with the misconception of what Public Speaking is. The common interpretation is to speak in front of a large group or audience of sorts. While that is partially correct, the reality is that Public Speaking is, at the core being able to better communicate in any size group. Be it one on one with a friend, family member or work colleague, a department meeting or workshop and anything in-between.
He is now in the process of learning all the required skills to address his fear and confidently respond. One of those skills is the art of Impromptu Speaking. Thinking on your feet with a response or comment with no opportunity to prepare. This he tells me is without a doubt the most valuable skill.
I am convinced that EVERYONE can benefit from learning Public Speaking skill. Think about the last time you got caught in the lift with your manager or boss and he threw you a curveball to which you were like a deer in the headlights or the time you had an idea at a department meeting and you were so overcome with fear you sat quietly. Understand these are not isolated instances and they have strong ramifications for you both personally and professionally moving forward.
Remember, the quality of your communication will ultimately determine the level of your success.
We look forward to your comments and any feedback.
Until next time, Bye for now.
We have all been to social events and business networking events where we have met someone for the first time and either instantly when the first word is spoken or after 30 seconds we have a “feel” if we either like them and wish to continue an entertain the idea of doing business or we don’t like, trust them and can’t find an exit quick enough! We sometimes call it gut feel but more often than not our first impressions are spot on. Why is this so? Well, the answer lies with millions of years of evolution of man.
Many times, it’s us who are trying to make a good first impression whether it be a prospective client, a job interview or a potential date so it’s important to understand how and why it all works and how we are affected.
We have 3 Brains.
I had many teachers in my youth ask me if I possessed a brain. Well had I known then what I know, I could have proudly said “well I actually have 3!” to which I’m sure would have got me punishment of sort for being insolent. As we know that’s not right, we do have 1 brain however there are 3 specific areas which due to adaptations as a result of evolution have all very different functions.
Reptilian or Limbic brain
All messages come to the Reptilian brain to be processed before they proceed to other areas. The Reptilian part is very basic and very primal. It’s only assessing 2 things, is it an opportunity or a threat, can I eat it or can it eat me. There are 2 types of threats:
Physical Any form of physical harm or a life threatening situation by someone or something.
Energetic How much energy do I need to process the information? The brain by nature is a cognitive miser and as such will expend as little energy as possible. So if your business introduction is as boring as watching paint dry, the other persons brain does not want to expend the necessary energy to process what you have to say and it’s pretty much game over.
Opportunities nowadays are can I do business with his person, is she a prospective partner or I like the other person and could see my self-spending more time with them socially and so on.
This part looks at social order and hierarchy. Who is this person? Do they know what they are talking about and does this person represent socially with strength? In other words, is your body language strong? Good eye contact, quality handshake, shoulders back or you’re bent over looking sideways? It matters!
This part is responsible for critical thinking, i.e. problem solving and analysis to determine what this person is saying. Put simply, to think and process.
Given this order cannot be manipulated, you need to make sure your message is clear and concise to ensure your message gets to move on to the next processing stage. The key factor if the message passes through is how easy it is to process. Is it new, is it exciting, is it a benefit or is it a threat? Given the evolutionary adaptations, people are looking to pursue opportunities and run away from threats. As mentioned, we have about 30 seconds to make an impression. If you’re attending networking events, your “elevator pitch” should be clear and direct to ensure the listener’s attention is captured. Use your own bad experiences to convince yourself of how this all works. If it’s social interaction, have an interesting little intro ready and engage the other person with questions about themselves….people LOVE to talk about themselves.
Remember, the quality of your communication will determine the level of your success.
As always we welcome your comments and feedback.
Good luck at your next function and until next week, bye for now.
Some of the common questions and comments I receive are:
What is Public Speaking?
I don’t speak to big groups either socially or at work.
Who should learn to Speak in Public?
Are there any other benefits to learning to Speak in Public?
Well let me respond and illuminate……
What is Public Speaking?
Public Speaking is not just about standing in front of 100 or 1000 people. The “art” of Public Speaking is about your ability to communicate a message to 1 or multiple people such as friends, family, work colleagues, peers or a group of complete strangers. That message can be selling yourself at a job interview, delivery a workshop, promoting your product or service, speaking to educate, inform or entertain and importantly, that communication is not just your words but your body language and your vocal variety. Albert Mehrabian, Professor of Psychology at UCLA, undertook studies which found that a staggering 55% of our communication was through Body language, 38% was Non –Verbal i.e. Tone and vocal variety and ONLY 7% was what we actually said. This can be easily demonstrated. You come home late and your wife greets you with folded arms, tapping foot and THAT look. She hasn’t uttered one single word and you know you’re in deep!
I Don’t Speak to Big Groups.
I touched on that above but let me elaborate. Other than living on a deserted island on your own, I can’t think of any other situation that would not require some form of communication. I stand to be corrected if anyone has another example. It may only be via email but it is still communication. The ability to communicate and understand how others communicate is fundamental in building and maintaining relationships in both our work and personal lives. From asking mum or dad for a new toy, to trying to convince your teacher why your homework was not completed, to the job interview and even to convincing that boy or girl to go out with you. We are all communicating ALL the time.
Who Should Learn to Speak in Public?
Short answer….Everyone! As I mentioned above, unless you are living alone on a desert island (and so unlikely to be reading this in any event) you should learn better communication skills through Public Speaking Training. It doesn’t matter where, it could be university, work, family and social gatherings, improving your communication will only ever help you.
Are There Any Other Benefits to Learning to Speak in Public?
This one won’t be a short answer. The great American Speaker and Motivator, Zig Ziglar said one the best ways to build your self-esteem and gain confidence is to learn to Speak in Public. I have seen so many examples of people whose confidence was zero and as a result underachieved at work by not speaking up at meetings and presenting their ideas to becoming confident, articulate and assuming leadership roles within their organisations, church or charity. The value of being able to speak to a group cannot be understated. Technology and social media has created unprecedented opportunity to be seen and heard for all age, social, and ethnic groups. Facebook, messenger, and other platforms are the most common form of communication and to an extent, the downside of this revolution is the younger generation’s inability to varying levels to have either the skills or the confidence to communicate and build relationships in a face to face situation. As they move forward in life there will be potential job interviews, presenting reports or research papers at University or college, selling their ideas to potential investors and many more. But much more than that, Public Speaking isn’t just about a speech. It teaches structure and understanding human psychology to be able to answer question or make comments on the fly, e.g. you run into your boss or team leader in the elevator and he asks your view on the last quarter’s financial report. Rather than floundering, imagine being able to have a structure along with the information to provide a concise and intelligent comment? You may be called upon to perform a toast at a wedding or work colleagues going away celebration. Priceless! I can tell you I have been to weddings where the toasts had about as much impact and entertainment on a level lower than zero. There is also the more sombre, a eulogy. The celebration of a loved one or close friends life. And the final and sometimes MOST important skill is listening…..yes listening. I once read “we were given two ears and one mouth….we should use them in those proportions”. It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen! You need to be able to listen with interest and intent to then be able to correctly, with structure respond and or provide critical, constructive feedback such as in a performance review or a departmental meeting. Public Speaking Training provides all the skill for every communication situation.
I always say that the quality of your communication determines the level of your success. Success is measured in many different ways. It could be your work or personal relationships. Whichever you’re looking to improve, I wish you well on your journey.
As always I look forward to any comments and feedback
Until next time, bye for now