Imagine being at ease and in your flow when you are the centre of attention.
From that place, what would you do with your life?
Effective speakers focus on connection
The key to transforming fear and becoming an engaging and effective speaker is to focus on the connection between speaker and listeners, building a connection between you and the audience. Easy and authentic presence when speaking is about being in relationship with yourself and your audience.
The foundation for speaking with ease in front of groups of any size is learning to connect with them, allowing your eyes to rest upon one person at a time. When you allow yourself to be available to connect in this way before beginning to speak, your own availability, in turn, allows your audience to meet you. A relationship has begun. Beginning to speak from this place, without trying too hard, to one person at a time, with eyes softly available creates flow and ease.
I love this gentle inside out approach because:
• It focuses on developing your natural qualities, strengths and genuine rapport with others.
• It allows you to ‘be with’ your fear and transform it.
• It focuses on support, safety, appreciation and acceptance.
• It allows speaker and listener to find an authentic connection, as if in conversation.
• It guides you to be present in the moment with yourself and others.
• It enables you to make the difference you want by sharing your knowledge and your stories.
For many years I had my own fear of public speaking. This approach, those qualities about it I have just described, enabled me to transcend and transform my fear. I now love speaking with an audience.
Steps to building the foundation of connection
As public speaking anxiety primarily occurs in group situations it is usually most beneficial to attend a speaking practice group, where there is an opportunity to practise with others in person or on the phone. You can create your own, see Step 3 below, or you can join a group, step 4.
You can begin to build this foundation by being your own audience. The steps below will guide you through the process of how to build the foundation of connection with yourself, a partner and groups.
Step 1: Practice by yourself
Practice: Set a timer or time yourself for 2 minutes. Stand or sit in front of a mirror. Look at yourself, allowing your eyes to gaze softly (not staring). Take yourself in. Notice your breath as you continue to gaze softly. Notice what messages you tell yourself and let them go. Stay present, focus on the moment. From this place of silence and presence begin to speak (if words arise naturally) and listen. You may choose to stay in silence.
What did you notice? What did you feel?
Do this practice daily and notice what shifts and changes as you learn to be in connection with yourself in this new way.
When you have been used to being fearful, it can feel uncomfortable when you begin to explore and experience presence in this way. It might feel like coming home, or landing. Getting presence under your skin and into your bones begins with learning to connect with yourself.
Step 2: Practice with a partner
Practice: With a partner or a friend sit facing each other. Take it in turns by setting a timer for 5 minutes each. Using soft gaze be available for each other. Stay present, focus on the moment. Notice what messages you each tell yourself and let them go. From this place of silence and presence take it in turns to speak (if words arise naturally) and listen. You may choose to stay in silence. You may choose to describe your experience. At the end of your turns thank each other.
What did you notice? What did you feel?
Do this practice daily and notice what shifts and changes as you learn to be in connection with others, one person at a time.
Step 3: Practice with a support group
A warm, supportive environment allows the space and time to find your real voice. Working together is easier and more effective than working alone.
Practice: Gather people who are committed to exploring this gentle method and form a speaking support group, where there is an opportunity to practise with others. Ideally you would want between 3 to 6 people.
Make sure each participant is clear that the purpose of the group is to make it safe for individuals to practise transforming their fear of speaking through connection with others.
Sit in a circle or arc.
Agree on confidentiality.
Each person has an equal amount of time for their turn.
The audience practises listening without judgement. Available and supportive.
Step 4: Speaking practice groups
Speaking practice groups, run by a facilitator trained in the process of Relational Presence, create a safe accepting environment. Participants learn how to take a turn in front of the group, how to listen and speak authentically, discover the power of their presence and learn about their natural qualities as a speaker and be able to tell others about theirs.
Participants transform their fear of public speaking, open up, connect with who they really are, speak powerfully and take centre stage in their life and work. So much is possible when we truly claim our voice and take our place in the world. We can then share the wisdom of our unique knowledge, speak at our mother’s funeral, be the best man we want to be and have genuine, honest communication with our partner.
* Sally Forman, CPCC, ACC, PBANZ, MNZAP is a Certified Coach, Speaking Facilitator and Registered Psychotherapist. Sally believes that the key to transforming fear of public speaking is the quality of connection between the speaker and their audience. She is a guide to Relational Presence. Curious to explore public speaking training and courses with a difference? Sally invites you to be an Explorer here at Authentic Harmony.