During the school holidays I was watching cricket on TV with my 13 year old son Samuel and I commented on how the bowler, while walking back to start his run up, was absentmindedly throwing the ball into the air and catching it without looking. “Thanks easy mum!” and he demonstrated how he could do it too. “Well” I replied, “That must be the foundation skill you need to juggle.”
Later on that evening I caught him watching an instructional video on YouTube. The next day he showed me how he could juggle three balls for five seconds. Then things began to escalate! Within three days he was juggling three tennis ball effortlessly, within a week he was throwing a ball under his leg, then around his back and after two weeks he was bouncing balls off the wall while juggling.
It was fabulous to watch his learning curve and it occurred to me that nearly everything (including public speaking) is a skill. With time, the right instruction, practise, and a little bit of grit, you can learn almost anything.
Here’s how you apply this to public speaking. 5 Steps to get you started:
1. Public speaking is a skill
You may have been told (or you are telling yourself) that you will never be good at public speaking. Rubbish! You just have not had the right instruction and opportunity to practise. We all start from a different baseline. If I compare my ball skills with my son I am certain to be disappointed, but that is not to say that I cannot improve and be competent with the right coaching and application. We are not born knowing how to juggle, neither are we born knowing how to deliver engaging and persuasive presentations. These are both skills we can learn.
2. Rewards spur you on – get a fan club
A big part of Samuels focus was my enthusiasm. I took videos of his progress. We did slo-mo shots and discussed the videos he watched. His grandmothers applauded, asked questions and bought him juggling balls. Share your goal with a friend or colleague at work; ask them what you are doing right and for opportunities to present. Join a public speaking fan club such as Toastmasters, Rostrum or Penguins where you can work through a series of speeches, receive feedback and record your progress.
3. If you work on something you will improve
Samuel decided not to continue with his trumpet lessons this year. “I’m just not good at it mum!” I challenged this with “You could be if you wanted to. If you applied the same determination you did with your juggling you would be great!” The reality is, is that he didn’t want to continue with trumpet because it wasn’t ‘cool.’ I have never seen someone that did not improve their confidence and competence in public speaking with regular practise. Gold medal winners do not get that way by doing something once. Keep at it, bit by bit, you will improve.
4. It’s OK to get some help
This is where the born /made myth comes in. Many clients I work with feel that good speakers are born and that good presenters never feel nervous. Nope! Like juggling it’s a skill. Some may find it easier than others, but we are all capable of learning. Practise doesn’t make perfect – practise makes permanent. Make sure you’re getting the right advice pitched at the right level for you.
5. Every endeavour begins with the courage to start
What’s stopping you? For many industries, not being able to stand up and speak up is a career deal breaker. You can start now by watching Amy Cuddy talk about confidence, and if you’re ready for some coaching, I’d love to be able to help.
Samuel continues to improve his skills, the taking-a bite-out-of-an-apple is his next challenge. I have drawn the line though at juggling bowling balls, machetes and chainsaws!
What are your thoughts?