If we ask you “how much do you trust your audience?” what answer is most likely for you:
I trust myself just fine, but I don’t trust the audience. People can be awful and scary.
I trust the audience, but I never thought about whether I trust myself.
I get nervous, does that mean I don’t trust myself?
None of the above, but now I’m wondering what this weird question is about.
No matter what your answer is, here’s the truth about getting up in front of people:
It begins with you trusting yourself.
For years, the accepted rules of speaking have taught people to be rigid and proper, counting “ums” and worrying about gestures. Then there’s the really bad one - "don’t you dare show any actual human emotion, that’s not professional." It’s time to ditch these outdated ideas about speaking!
How’s this for a better strategy?
Let more of the real you show in front of an audience.
Think about the best meetings you’ve been to and the best speakers you’ve heard...
Did the speaker stand there rigid, controlling every physical move or did they act natural, allowing their emotion to inform their gestures?
Did they engage you with bold statements and colorful language, expressing their feelings, or did you sit there counting their ums?
Did they worry about trying to please everyone or were they simply themselves, trusting that the message would land with each person as it was meant to?
It’s easy to think that “those really good speakers” can do that because they’re so much more experienced, or polished, or the expert. You know one key thing they had to learn? How to trust themselves.
You can build this skill, too.
You don’t even need an audience to start. In Improvisation, we practice building trust in ourselves and others by stepping into the unknown every time we start a scene.
How can you do this in everyday life and work?
When you catch yourself holding back in a situation where you really want to speak or act, try stepping forward instead. Use low stakes moments to experiment and build a little bit of muscle. Next time you notice yourself suppressing a comment, questioning whether you should do or say something, or otherwise questioning yourself, do a check on your self-trust. If you catch yourself saying you don’t trust the other person or the situation, dig a little deeper. It's easy to blame others, like your audience if you're speaking, or your team if you're leading, but blame doesn't yield confidence or improved results. Somewhere in there you probably need to trust the real you a bit more.
Taking baby steps in building more trust in yourself and others will lead to better results in front of an audience, while networking, and working with your teams and customers.
Learn to trust the real you more.