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Friday, March 9, 2012

Overcome Self-Consciousness in Interviews and Public Speaking

Feeling Self-Conscious about Speaking in Public?

·         Are you apprehensive about an upcoming job interview?

·         Do you get uneasy when you speak in meetings?

·         Do you feel self-conscious and exposed when you attempt to be more visible?

Get over yourself! Stop making yourself a wreck. Learn to speak comfortably in front of large or small groups by taking the focus off you and using silence to be heard more.

The two golden rules of communication—break them at your peril

Years ago I watched as a nervous instructor gave her first lecture in anatomy at UCLA. This rookie instructor was so nervous she talked non-stop without pausing to take a breath.

Twenty minutes into the 50-minute lecture she was finished. Upon reaching the end of her lecture notes, she looked up to find herself face-to-face with 200 angry students with writer's cramp and bad attitudes.

Another very energetic and talented colleague was excited, but nervous about interviewing for a new position. When asked how her interview went, she laughed and said, "I think I was too busy looking competent to get the job."

In their quests to look competent, both the novice instructor and nervous interviewee had broken the golden rules of effective communication:

·         Be other-conscious, not self-conscious

·         Practice the pause

Be Other-Conscious

The frightened anatomy instructor made the mistake all unskilled communicators make--she was so concerned about how she came across to her audience, she ignored how the students received the information. She wasn't listening to her audience, she was watching herself. And the anxious interviewee also succumbed to her nervousness, becoming self-conscious about how she looked and sounded and as a result passed her nervousness on to the interviewers.

The sign of a good communicator is not the ability to talk, but the ability to relax and listen—especially if you're giving a presentation or interviewing for a job. If you want to be heard, you must learn to listen to and observe your audience's interest and comfort level.

Be Comfortable to Create a Comfortable Setting

If you relate to the experiences of these competent but self-conscious professionals, learn to regain your composure and calm in public presentations by focusing on the comfort of your audience instead of yourself.

According to one UCLA study over 90% of your ability to communicate effectively is determined not by what you say, but by your nonverbal cues.

The words you use are only responsible for seven percent of the impact on your audience, while up to 37 % of a first impression you make on others is based on your tone of voice. If you're nervous and uncomfortable you'll convey that to others in the room through your body language and they'll take on your discomfort--decreasing your effectiveness and ability to influence them.

In addition to preparing your material for an interview or presentation, prepare yourself to focus on the comfort of your audience by centering yourself with the four messages all audience want to hear. You'll convey these four messages nonverbally when you walk into the room, greet your audience, and anytime you pause, smile and relax.

The Four Messages all Audiences want to Hear

I'm glad I'm here.

I'm glad you're here.

I care about you.

I know that I know.

Other-Consciousness Raises Your Self-Confidence

When you pay attention to the needs and comfort of your audience you'll be rewarded with an increase in self-confidence. When you focus on the needs of others, you'll discover the secret desire of all audiences that your self-consciousness previously hid from you.

The Secret Desire of all Audiences

Whether you're giving a presentation or interviewing for a job, everyone in the room secretly hopes you'll do an outstanding job—even the skeptics.

Why? People who took time out of their busy day to interview you or attend your presentation want to be validated for making a good use of their time. Simply put, people hate wasting their time. They want to connect with you and be wowed by you so they have something to show for their time. They want a 'take away' and they want to end the search for the perfect candidate with you. There are no critics in the room with you—only colleagues who sincerely hope you're the one.

Practice the Pause

In this time-oriented society, you've got to be able to get your message across in less time. But don't focus on how little time you have to make your mark--focus on how to capture your listener's attention. Pause, listen, and learn.

Don't focus on how little time you have to make your mark--focus on how to capture your listener's attention.

In the timeless children's story, Stone Soup, that's exactly what a hungry soldier did when the townspeople wouldn't give him the time of day.

At first the hungry soldier went door to door telling people he was hungry. But he got nothing but doors slammed in his face.

When he paused and listened, he changed his approach. He stopped telling people what he needed and started getting their attention. He went out into the town square, lit a fire, put a kettle of water on, and started to stir.

The result? When he stopped talking, people started listening. One by one the curious townspeople came over to ask what he was doing. Suddenly time was no longer an issue.

Find a way to capture your audience's attention—ask questions they're interested in, weave stories based on their experiences, offer unique perspectives, and then give them time to ponder your points.

"Silence is one of the great arts of conversation."  Marcus Tullius Cicero

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For more than 25 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before. Contact Susan to schedule life change coaching, weekend retreats, or engaging Lightarted experiences to share with friends and colleagues.


Chris said...

Sue -- These are good things to remember as we get ready to give a talk. I will return to this message again and again. Thanks! C.

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...


I know you're out there giving those presentations. Keep up the good work! Spread the human capital message!