For a culture that values the truth, we tell a lot of lies.
Mainly about ourselves.
Often to ourselves.
These lies prevent our success.
Stop us applying for promotions.
Paralyse us in front of an audience.
And they’re all of our creation.
To become a good public speaker – to present well to an audience – we have to quash these lies.
Well that’s how it feels.
You stand up to present to the board and time stands still.
Everybody stares at you – seeing that time has stopped.
Or so you tell yourself.
But you are creating a state of mind.
The truth is your brain is still running your body.
It’s just waiting for an instruction.
So tell it to say:
The audience just hears your voice.
Only you can hear a tremble in it.
Because you’re telling yourself it’s there.
And it’s a lie.
The truth is that the audience will hear a strong and clear voice.
If you tell yourself you speak strongly and clearly.
Firstly, why would they be looking at your legs?
Secondly, why would they be shaking?
Well they would see if you were rising and falling on your toes.
They would see if you were dancing from foot to foot.
And if you find yourself doing either: STOP IT.
But the imagined shaking of your legs is a creation of your mind.
So, put it back in its cage and tell your mind to stand straight and look purposeful.
All spilling out your words without structure or purpose.
All that happens is that some sentences come out differently from planned.
But to be natural, we should speak from bullet points and allow ourselves flexibility.
That brings personality to what we say – and we do it all the time socially.
Trouble is, in a speech we have an expected route, but sometimes find ourselves going ”off piste”.
Just work your way back to your big point and rejoin the main ski slope.
Only your head is telling you that you’re hopelessly lost in a snowstorm.
And it’s another fib.
Firstly, what is a thick accent?
I’m from Glasgow – but I’m understood across the world.
The Beatles hailed from Liverpool – but the world understood their songs and interviews.
Ant and Dec are from the north-east of England, and their programmes have been broadcast across the globe.
So, where does this thick accent come from?
It comes from inside our heads.
It’s feeling self-conscious about our accent.
All we ever need to do is slow down for people to understand us.
We run many presentation skills courses in Paris and Nice.
Some French accents emphasise phrases quite differently from what we’re used to in the UK.
But when all speak slowly, we understand every word.
So speak slowly to be understood.
Because our accent is like a sun tan.
It just says we’ve spent time in a certain place.
I used to think that.
Until I had nine points on my driving licence.
One more speeding fine and I’d be banned.
So, I slowed down.
Yes it was difficult.
Sure – it felt as if I was driving a tractor rather than a car, at first.
But, after some months the points started to drop off.
Do it for three years and you get a clean licence.
I speak at half the speed I once spoke at.
I’ve just been slowing down my delivery rate for 25 years.
If you find it difficult, write SLOW DOWN on every page of you speech.
Until you do.
Oh yes – that voice inside our head again.
The one that’s been lying to you all along.
So, why would you believe yet another lie?
If you tell yourself that you’ll be nervous up there – you will be.
But if you tell yourself you’re excited – you will be.
I’m a little nervous as I tee off in golf competitions.
I’m aware of the boundary fence on the right marking OUT OF BOUNDS.
So, I tell myself:
“hit it down the middle”.
When you stand up to speak, tell yourself
“this will go well”.
It’s the same thing.
Because nervousness is just the flip side of the coin from excitement.
I feel both when on the golf course.
But I insist that excitement prevails.
And it’s exhilarating.
So how do we know all this is true?
Because our clients share with us these lies every day.
We hear them in Germany, in Spain and in France.
We hear them in the USA and Middle East.
We hear them in Australia and Singapore.
People are the same across the world.
They have to overcome the lies they were told as children.
That they spoke badly or looked nervous.
That their accent was bad or structure was poor.
And that criticism gets stuck in our psyche – making us a prisoner of our past.
Take your platform with confidence.
Tell yourself you’re well-prepared.
Speak loudly, clearly and slowly – in your own accent.
And keep encouraging yourself along the way.
That’s how to succeed in a presentation.
As a presentation skills course finished last week at our Glasgow studios, I asked a woman how she felt.
“I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders”, she told us.
She’s always disliked her Lanarkshire accent.
And the tremble in her voice.
She thought her brain always froze.
Her legs shook.
Her voice trembled.
She spoke too fast.
And was wracked by nerves.
Then she watched the recording of her presentation.
And adapted her view of herself.
Turns out it was all one big lie.
Bill McFarlan is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.
You can read his full profile here.
Some media trainers knock you down…and leave you down. Our media coaches show you how to deal with each knock…and still win through. So you have the presentation skills to perform – with confidence.