Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

First, the bad news.

Is this you? You have to speak up at meetings and give presentations. But it's never comfortable because you don't see yourself as a show pony. You're not one who naturally seeks the spotlight. If so, then you are probably limiting your own personal authority and presence without knowing that it's you doing it.

Sorry if that assumption annoys you, but I've seen too much evidence in my workshops to ignore the link.

Why your personal authority might be at risk

To be in front of an audience is like being in front of an x-ray machine. You can't hide your reluctance. It shows up in every movement, expression and tone. Your unspoken message is, I don't want to be here talking to you. How do you imagine anyone would react if you spoke those words aloud? But spoken or not, that's the message the audience gets. No wonder your personal authority and presence are at risk.

Still with me?

The problem is not what we are, but what we think we are. How we define ourselves. The thought I am... is creatively powerful. For example, the thought I am not a public speaker undermines your speaking abilities and drags your personal authority down.

Yes, you read that correctly. Your beliefs about yourself have more power over your life than a hurricane. They dictate not just your conscious choices of action, but your presence. For example, shy speakers often believe this self-fulfilling prophecy: I lose credibility when I make even small mistakes. So when they make a mistake, their embarrassment ensures a credibility freefall! Whereas confident speakers don't care about mistakes, feel no embarrassment and maintain credibility.

Now the good news.

You can boost your personal authority when you speak

Your self image is fixable. Not by chanting self-improvement mantras, but by doing what confident speakers do. Teach your brain and body a new way.

Ask yourself this, "If I had high confidence and personal authority, how would I look and sound? How would I move? How would I look at the audience?"

And then do it. (For some ideas on how, see previous blogs.)

Yes, at first it's an act. But then, as your brain and body accept the new way, you'll start to feel the confidence that leads to more personal authority. Just don't do it alone - go to someone you trust to look at you practising and give you instant feedback.

It's you who decides what comes after I am... It's not about who you are, it's about who you think you are. I like this from Mahatma Ghandi: "A man is but the product of his thoughts - what he thinks, he becomes."

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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