Don’t Do Public Speaking – Have A Conversation

This may be one of the most powerful tools in your public speaking journey, from fear and nerves to successful and engaging public speaking – “Learn to be conversational”.

One of the issues with public speaking is that people want to be perfect. They are worried about being judged and what other people will think. They feel like they need to put on a brilliant performance and, therefore, public speaking is scary. I have a simple cure for fear of public speaking. Simply, I say “don’t ever do public speaking again. Instead, from now on, just have a conversation with the people in the room.” The conversational approach to public speaking is powerful. It is what the audience wants and it allows you to be yourself. Here are 5 reasons why being conversational works.

1. Making each audience member feel like you are speaking to them

When you and I are sitting in a conference or seminar, we like to feel that the speaker is speaking to us, one on one. This demonstrates that they care about us, have our needs in mind and our sharing their knowledge with us and for us. We don’t want to experience “group talk” or to feel like we are in a lecture being talked down to. Having a conversation makes each audience member feel included and part of the presentation.

2. Reframing fear and pressure of public speaking

Moving away from public speaking and doing a conversation is what psychologists would call reframing. Psychologists use reframing to help address fears and look at issues in a different light. A classic example of reframing is that “it is not a mistake, rather it is a lesson”. So when we, in our minds, decide to have a conversation then that removes a lot of the pressure off of ourselves to do a perfect public speech. We can all hold conversations, we regularly use conversations to converse one on one or small groups. So all we need to do is the same to a large group.

3. Allowing for a paradigm shift

A paradigm shift is when you look at something differently. The paradigm shift is simply moving from a public speaking model to a conversational model. As suggested, it is just having a normal conversation and most of us are proficient at one on one conversations. Similar to reframing, we can use it to change our way of thinking and if we can think of this big bad and scary public speaking monster as a friendly conversation, we can shift our mindset. This enables us to relax, engage the audience and be more successful as a speaker.

4. Allowing you to be imperfect and have conversational hick ups

Conversations by their very nature are imperfect. There are a few um’s and ah’s and we sometimes lose track or say the wrong words. This allows us to be normal and let go of the need to do a perfect polished presentation. I recently wrote an article about my less than perfect keynote and how I was too hard on myself – The Myth Of Public Speaking Perfectionism. Having a conversation allows you to relax and just speak in your normal conversational manner.

5. Helping us to be authentic

Authenticity is so important with public speaking. People buy from people they know, like and trust. Your audience will pick a fake a mile off and will not trust you as much. The best way to be authentic is be who you are in everyday real life. Think of speaking at a seminar to an audience. The following day one of the audience members bumps into you down the street and strikes up a conversation. Are you now someone different and was your presentation a performance? Or are you the same person with your conversational style that the person heard speak the day before? It is important that who you are on the stage is who you are off the stage. Being conversational helps you to be the real you and allows your authenticity to shine.

In summary one of the keys to being a good public speaker is to be conversational. Forget perfect polished public speaking and instead have a real authentic conversation with the people in the room.

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