Escape That Unconscious Trap with a Simple Shift (Part 2)

Over the past two weeks, we’ve unpacked two important reasons why public speaking comes to rank #1 in the list of things humans fear (with Death lagging behind at #6):

  1. The two schools of thought on the use of critiques to improve your speaking skills
  2. How Unconscious Traps sabotage you, with three specific examples of how they do it

This week, you’ll learn how to escape the Unconscious Traps that lie in wait for every novice speaker. (If you haven’t read the first two articles, I suggest you check them out first.)

Now that you’ve uncovered the Unconscious Trap that’s holding you back or stopping you as a speaker, you’re ready to discover the antidote.

All it takes is a Simple Shift: a small behavior change that you can make to break through what holds you back—or stops you—in your professional or personal life. (Unconscious Traps definitely do both.)

Although you can be trapped with no conscious awareness of how it happened, you must consciously choose a Simple Shift. The minute you choose to pay attention to what you want—instead of what’s holding you back or stopping you—you’re in control of your outcome. Since it’s physically impossible to be conscious and unconscious at the same time, you’re no longer trapped.

Here’s the Bottom Line: the instant you become conscious, you have a choice about what you want to do. Your awareness pops the trap wide open—every time.

Now you have enough information to get into action and do something different. Brain research has proven that doing anything else will get you a different result. If you don’t like the results you get with a behavior you choose, you simply keep changing it until you get the exact result you desire.

It’s that simple.

Don’t take my word for it though; you can try this out for yourself, using the same kind of Simple Shifts you’ll find in a PowerSpeak class. Practice any of the small behavior changes that follow and you’ll be able to interrupt every one of those Unconscious Traps that we uncovered last time.

Unconscious Trap #1: Feeling “Less Than”

This outdated belief often has roots in the experience of being compared to someone else in your class, or your family, or your community, and coming up short.

Simple Shifts (choose the ones that work best for you):

  1. Investigate this belief: Ask yourself, “Who said I was ‘less than’? What do they know? Who put them in charge of my life?” Decide if that old belief needs to be updated—and do it. Define for yourself what’s true about you now.
  2. All of us are great at some things and not so great at others. If speaking has never been a strong suit of yours, think about something you’re great at and compare it with your speaking experience. What’s different? Consider this: what would happen to your speaking experience if you used a strategy or two from whatever it is that you know you’re really good at? (There’s no one right answer here—all of my clients who have tried this strategy have shifted their experience of speaking to be more enjoyable. Added bonus: It’s easier to do something you enjoy.)
  3. Think of someone you respect as a great speaker. What is it about them that you appreciate so much? Once you’ve identified what it is, practice those behaviors the next time you speak. This Simple Shift works so well because you focus on what you want to do that works—instead of what you’re doing that’s “wrong.”

Unconscious Trap #2: Thinking I need to be an expert or feeling nervous about being challenged by an audience member.

This outdated belief has its roots in the old-fashioned practice of the speaker/teacher/presenter as “The Authority.”

Simple Shifts (choose the ones that work best for you):

  1. Look up “expert” in the dictionary. You’ll find that it comes from a 14th century word that means, “tested, shown to be true.” The root of that word comes from an older Latin word that means “to put to the test, attempt, have the experience of, undergo.” (Sounds like many people’s experience of speaking to a group, doesn’t it?) You’ll also find that this narrow definition of “expert” has become obsolete—because ancient people didn’t have Google! Unlike them, any information you might need is at your fingertips. Now that you know that the idea of having to be the expert is completely outdated, you’re free to let it go.
  2. Take another look at the word “expert” and find its current definition. It means, “having, involving or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.” In 2019, that means there can be people in any audience who have experience or training in your topic that differs from—or adds to—your own. There’s simply too much information available for all of it to fit into one person’s brain, as it might have in the 1300s. That means you can count on the high possibility of getting a question to which you don’t immediately know the answer.Here’s where connecting with your audience—in ways you’ll learn in PowerSpeak—will make this formerly scary situation engaging for everyone. You can say, “Wow! What a great question. Who knows the answer?” Then pause expectantly, look around the room and breathe. Somebody might have an answer—welcome them into the conversation and applaud their contribution. This speaks volumes about your confidence and your connection with your audience. If nobody else knows the answer—no problem. You say, “Great question—thank you! I’ll find the answer and post it online so everyone has it.” Choosing this behavior eliminates 99% of the stage fright this particular Unconscious Trap engenders.
  3. You can choose to be generous when you speak. It works like this: you decide to believe that everyone in your audience has something to contribute to you. No matter what they ask, it contains a gift for you—as well as for your audience. They watch you accept everything that happens and use it for their benefit—if you’ve ever seen a speaker do this, you know powerful it can be. The good news is that anyone can learn how to do this in a PowerSpeak.

Unconscious Trap #3: Afraid that I won’t be able to hold an audience’s attention to the end of my presentation.

This outdated belief has its roots in the notion that there is only one way to hold an audience’s attention because speaking is “all about the speaker.”

Simple Shifts (choose the ones that work best for you):

  1. Choose to consider every speaking opportunity as your invitation to pay closer attention to your audience. You will find they become much more interested in you.
  2. Take the time to find out everything you can about your audience before you speak. When you know about their interests and their experience with your topic, you’ll know exactly how to keep their attention, with a presentation that’s engaging for them.
  3. Arrive early to every speaking opportunity. Take the time to meet as many audience members as you can—whether it’s a small business meeting or a large conference presentation—and you will create a connection with them. Now they’re interested in you, because you are clearly interested in them. It’s magnetic!

These Simple Shifts are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to interrupting the Unconscious Traps that will derail your speaking. Using any of them will increase your ability to connect with any audience—even before you reach the podium. Developing that kind of confidence is the foundation of every PowerSpeak class, as well as the reason it’s helped thousands of speakers to transform their speaking experiences and energize their audiences.

If you enjoyed this article, why not:

  • Claim your seat in the PowerSpeak class on February 20
  • Share this with a colleague who would benefit from joining us at PowerSpeak
  • Let me know about your Simple Shifts in the comments!

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