Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Okay, this is light-hearted, but there's a serious point to make about our ability to be present with an audience. 

Outside our kitchen window, there's a very large elm tree. Late every afternoon, around dusk, a blackbird sits in it and sings. No ordinary song - for at least 20 minutes this feathered diva does not repeat itself.  We never hear the same musical phrase; not in tone, note or rythym. It clearly makes its melodies up, without pause, as it goes. It can't be a simple message like danger, or worm; anything like that is surely done with a single raucous chirp.

What's it doing? My wife and I have decided that our blackbird enjoys speaking in public and does not suffer from self-consciousness.

Sure, I'm reaching a long way for that one. So here's the serious bit.  The hard truth.

However kind and understanding our audiences may be, if they detect self-consciousness, they see us as less credible.  Just to be clear, the self-consciousness is itself the enemy, more than any mistakes we might make.

Why?  Because when we're worried about ourselves we're sending a potent signal to our audience that our attention is actually not on them.

How to get over self-consciousness?  That's what all these blogs are about.  But for now, here's a super quick tip that works startlingly well for some people - it's emotional blackmail you apply to yourself.  Ask, Who am I here for? Is it for me? Or is it for my audience? 

The audience? Right answer. 


Yes, at home.  If you get caught trying this in the work loo, your colleagues will recommend a psychiatrist.

This is for you if you suffer from symptoms of nervousness that are obvious to your audience. Examples: a nervous smile, a tremor in your voice, speaking too fast and without pauses, a twitch, or very little body language, a reluctance to look directly into people's eyes.  If any of your symptoms are like those, then this cure might work for you.

  1. Pick a serious topic you could speak about for about 20 seconds.
  2. Imagine what you would look and sound like if you were even more nervous than usual. Now look in the mirror and speak, deliberately exaggerating your nervous symptoms. (Just exaggerate slightly, don't turn yourself into a clown.)  What you're doing is externalising and objectively noticing your own symptoms.
  3. Reverse it. Strongly imagine what you would look and sound like if you were confident and really wanted the audience to get your message. What would you be doing with your eye and head language? Your hands and arms? The rest of your body? How firm would your voice be?   Now look in the mirror and do that.
  4. Alternate 2 and 3, until you're comfortable with 3. Now think to yourself, Could I make that (3) happen in front of a real audience?

The method works for two reasons.  First, you're showing your own brain the difference in symptoms between nervousness and confidence.  Second, by practising the symptoms of confidence, you're building into your brain the circuitry of confidence. 

Keep building and the act turns into reality. Make confidence a habit.

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