CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – AUGUST 23, 2021
Any time that you are developing a skill, the more successes that you can string together, the faster you will build confidence. (For details about the process visit Fear of Public Speaking.) The basics of growing confidence versus growing fear are pretty simple and straightforward. First, the more risk involved in a process, the more nervousness will be present in the learning process. Second, if during the learning process you have success, your confidence grows. If you have a perceived failure, your nervousness grows. Finally, and most importantly to this topic, the closer the instances of success, the more and faster the confidence will grow.
For instance, if I’m practicing a cooking recipe that I saw on YouTube, but I’m in the safety of my own kitchen, and I’m the only one who will taste the final product, there is a low risk of danger. (Unless I’m cooking blowfish or something.) Although I may not be a great cook, I’m not likely to have a lot of nervousness. However, if I’m trying to learn how to skydive, the risk of failure, if I make a mistake, is dire. As a result, nervousness during the process will be extreme.
For many people, the potential embarrassment of flubbing a speech is dire as well. That is why statistics show that as high as 90% of the population has some type of presentation fear
In addition to the risk involved, our past experience is important. As we develop a new skill, if we have a success, our confidence grows. However, if we have a failure (or even just a perceived failure) we get even more nervous.
When my son started playing Little League Baseball, I wanted to help him succeed. So, he and I went into the backyard every day for a month or so to practice hitting. It didn’t take a lot of time. We just spent a few minutes every day. In the fifth game, his coach came up to me after getting the mid-season statistics from the league. He said, “Do you realize that Ben is batting 1000? He has the highest batting average in the league.” The coach made a big deal out of it at the next practice. Ben’s confidence soared.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the last couple of years, and I realized something important. When Ben and I practiced in the backyard, he got to a point where he hit every single pitch that I threw to him. So, when he got into a game, he didn’t know anything different. He just hit the ball. Other kids who didn’t have those weeks of practice just showed up at the first game to give it a shot. The ones who got a hit right of the bat (so to speak,) grew their confidence. Those who struck out right away reduced their confidence. The same thing happens in public speaking. If you “knock it out of the park” during your first presentation, your confidence will grow. If you think you flubbed the presentation, your nervousness will grow.
Finally, you have to string a series of these successes together. This part is most important. If you are developing a new skill but you practice the skill so infrequently that you can’t build up any momentum, it can take an enormous amount of time to reduce the nervousness that you feel. Let’s say that you want to run a marathon. In order to train, you decide to run five miles once every six months. That would be ridiculous. Your chances of success would be unbelievably small. That is the technique that a lot of people use in public speaking, though. “Let’s just avoid it as much as possible, and over time, I will get better somehow.” Huh? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. One of the reasons why the Fearless Presentations ® class works so well is that we allow our participants to string together a series of successes over and over in a very short period of time.
The Final Step is to Make Successive Practice More Complicated.
On occasion, I will have people at the end of my class say something like, “Doug, I still felt nervous at the end of class. Is there something wrong with me?” Of course not. The technique that we use in the class is to make each successive activity (presentation) a little more complicated than the last. By the time that we finish the second day, the presentation that class members put together is more complicated than ones that a lot of professional speakers design. However, each class member is able to deliver that final presentation with a lot of poise and confidence. So, when I get someone saying this at the end of class, I typically ask the person what would have happened if I had assigned that last presentation that they delivered as the very first exercise in the class? The answer is always either, “I would have been terrified,” or “There is no way that I could have done that yesterday.” What a lot of us fail to realize is that even when we dramatically reduce our nervousness, we may still feel some nervousness. In fact, if we are feeling no nervousness at all, we most likely aren’t growing — we aren’t getting better.
The example that I often use in class is learning to fly an airplane. If you have never had any training to fly an airplane, and, on a whim, you just jump into a cockpit, you will likely be terrified. However, if you train with a flight instructor for about 50 hours, your confidence will improve dramatically. However, on your first solo flight, you are still going to be nervous. The nervousness will just no longer keep you from trying. The big thing to keep in mind is that after you fly solo about 10 times or more, that nervousness will likely drop to next to nothing. This is what happens with public speaking as well. Once people go through our classes and apply the skills that the master in the class over and over, that nervousness drops very quickly.