Friday, February 25, 2011

Would You Rather Die Or Speak in Public? Cure For the Number 1 Fear in America

The first real keynote address I gave was the drug that brought me to the oratory achievements I now have. I was asked to be a keynote speaker and thought I was one of several that night to address some of my peers and associates at a retirement celebration. I had just been married to the most beautiful woman in the whole state of Texas and the most intelligent woman I have ever met. So on the way to the banquet 90 miles outside of Dallas is when I mentally began to prepare. I had gone to many motivational programs, conducted college recruiting and had been put on the impromptu pedestal several times before, feeling I had met the challenged successfully.

I didn't know until 20 minutes before the presentation that I was as they say single billed after all along thinking I was one of several speakers . Oh my God I thought what am I going to do. It was the first time ever to speak publicly before my wife, my friends, my peers and some of the most influential executives of the seventh largest corporation in the whole world at that time. What do you think happened? I became deathly ill mentally and the physical part of me wasn't doing so well either. I excused myself to go to the restroom and thought I was going to upchuck right there right then. I mean I tried to wash my sweat filled brow with cold water and tried to calm my own nerves as quickly as I could.

Now I should tell you I am a psychologist equipped with multiple bio-feedback methods and exercises to handle the fight or flight syndrome I was currently thrust into without any warning. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that I couldn't thank of the right one should it be to lower my blood pressure, or the anxiety breath system to reduce the stress. Which one rolled across my ordinarily level headed mind that kept vacillating back and forth unsuccessfully I might add.

Well I was out of time and patience and if I didn't get back to the front table I was most definitely going to be missed. I envisioned my vacant chair standing out like the chair in the middle of the execution room in the movies where a crowd of victims eagerly are waiting to see the switch thrown. That little analogy managed to conjure its way up instantly flashing through my already stressed out brain awaiting the downward spiral of what would surely be my inadequate speech.

Well I do have a happy ending and I promise I will tell you about it in just a few moments. First though here are the key points of public speaking that will help you for the rest of your speaking life.

1.- Always prepare adequately.
2.- Never wear tight fitting or soiled attire unless you have spilled something on it between home/speech.
3.- Take 3 deep breathes before you begin. That's sooner than you walking up to begin to address your audience.
4.- Grasp the bottom sides of your chair if possible and discreetly pull up with all of your strength.
5.- Pan out over the crowd and find the people paying the most attention.
6.- Know your audience. I mean know what they are expecting so you can give them just that.
7.- Have a system of organized bullet points in a file system somewhere. In your mind/body/room files.
8.- Tell them what you are going to tell them.
9.- Tell Them.
10.- Then tell them what you just told them.

Now after 22 years of giving speeches, keynote addresses, impromptu talks, or round table discussions, I am here to tell you it is like an adrenaline rush. I mean I would rather be giving a program by instruction, a keynote address or any other platform type speech
than most anything. Well within reason.

What you say you must be out of your ever loving mind! No actually here is how it works. I always get into a room ahead of time if I can to load my room files with the speech content, workshop materials or topic I am teaching or speaking on. I always prime my brain; prepare my program and all of the steps 2 through 10 for my audience. Not just because they have paid me a ticket price or a speakers fee but because I want to give them my best. It's like my father bless his soul told me from the time I was able to understand till the day he passed, If it's worth doing it's worth doing the very best you can.

I guess that's the underlying sub conscious basis but really I want the people to get more than their moneys worth. I have the good fortune of knowing how the mind works, how people learn and what it takes to keep their attention. Now the more important thing is that you can do this too and I'm sure much better. Here's how I do it or should I say how it can be done.

I teach memory training for a living so I have the blessing of using a system to remember anything I chose to remember and I mean all things. So when I prepare my program I load everything into mental file folders. I pull from these file folders as I deliver my program and never refer back to an outline, power point, note cards or any other visual crutch that most speakers have to rely on heavily. God bless him even or current president would run amuck if he didn't have his see through prompters.

As an example the first day of our workshop contains 67 pages of script that has been turned into bullet points and some times as many as 50 plus per page. I either load the information in a 300 file list I have access to that I expanded for myself, or I use room files and place the information on those files for access as I need them. I know this sounds a little strange, what do mean body files, room files, car files, alphabet files?
Well I teach the file, picture, glue, mnemonic method. That's, where the file is a mental location somewhere to store information. Everything I have to remember is turned into a picture or story format, using rules for handling abstracts and tangible items. Then I glue the picture or story to the file I have created with visual bonding.

When I do this it takes all stresses off of me to look at notes, outlines, or even projected material on a screen. Now sometimes you may have to use a projected format for the visual aid of your audience. I believe you should do exactly just that and not use it for a crutch to remember your presentation order or material. When using my system it gives me the flexibility to stop answer a question learn a name or even say God bless you when someone sneezes. Now let's just see what that affords some one like me, 1. Walking around the audience more freely, 2. The advantage of not having to break eye contact with them, 3. Not being tied to a podium. Now don't forget the most important thing of all, I believe by using these techniques you will never be perceived as not knowing the subject matter! When you use a mental file folder system you will be the only person who will be able to see the notes!

Now I venture to that probably all or most of you know your subject matter or job duties so well that sometimes you skip things. That's only because you don't have a file list or check list to run through before you finish that job or your day. I know this is hitting pretty close to a lot of you reading this and I don't tell you these things to offend you, only to tell you there is a better way out there. I know I use it every day of my life in every walk of my life. It's just that I hate not being prepared don't you!

Let me review I build my subject to be presented, dress in loose clothes to feel comfortable, grab the bottom of my chair to take the anxiety out of my body, take 3 deep lung filling breathes before approaching the podium or standing position, I talk to the people that are interested or appear to be I scanned before go up, I tell them what I am going to tell them, then tell them and then finish by telling them what I told them.

One more thing that I do is leave them with a poem, or a quote, something to challenge them pertaining to what I just taught them. The last and most important thing I do is tell them thank you! Public speaking should always be something you look forward to doing. So maybe you are not the most fluid speaker combining spice with your analogies and story or topic. You can make sure your presentation or every thing that comes out of you mouth should be and is measured, organized, dissected, up beat and as much as possible worth saying well!

Well back to the story. Yes I did give the first speech of my life that night to about 100 people including the love of my life and best friend who sat anxiously waiting and praying for me to not pass out, fall flat on my face or embarrass either of us. What I did was prayed before I left the bathroom, and tried to be myself. I did however attempt to say things I would like someone to say about me at the end of my career. I tried the technique of folding in a few stories we both lived and shared at the north slope of Alaska where we had both worked together years before.

It was by no means the best speech I have ever given nor was it the last speech my wife and the retiree or his family have ever seen. I know the retiree still attends the company retirement association meetings. God love her I drag my wife along as much as I can for spiritual and emotional support. I really should say I think she actually accompanies me because she knows there is no telling what I might say next. She is probably the best critic a speaker could ask for, being she is someone that loves me enough to help me correct my shortfalls and gives me the necessary affirmations

So I will say again. Prepare, prepare, and then prepare again. The number one fear in America today is public speaking, the 6th fear is death. So don't be one of those that say if I have to get up in front of an audience to speak just shoot me! I know most of you can appreciate that little chuckle and I truly don't expect you to love it as much as I do. I do however believe as my dad once said "Do it the very best you can and then when you put your head on that pillow to rest at night you can say I gave it my best!"

Here's another little tool to use the acronym THINK- is it truthful, is it helpful, is it inspirational, is it necessary and is it kind! Let the acronym THINK be your guiding tool for your next address. It was placed in my mind after attending a memory workshop 19 years ago. I got it while I was talking to a wonderful friend the talented Reverend Roger McDonald who actually married me 28 years ago.

Thanks for reading this article I hope you have learned something you can walk away with and use in your future to overcome the number one fear of America today. Public Speaking! You know if we can't learn to laugh at ourselves sometime the journey may be a little less fun.

Learning forever I stay committed!

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