Why is it that some people seem more comfortable stepping up to a podium than others, many of whom would rather run a hundred miles or have a root canal without an anesthetic than agree to speak?
In answering this question, let me tell you a story involving my father and an uncle (both dead many years now).
Is there any such thing as a natural?
My father was an outstanding golfer who played off scratch for over 25 years, whereas my Uncle Chick took up the game late into adulthood and I don’t think he ever broke 100! Chick (it was a nick-name, ok?) was a lawyer and couldn’t help but analyze most things to the Nth degree. Meanwhile, my father just thought about what he wanted to do with his golf shots – and most times the ball went more or less where he had in mind.
On the odd occasions they played together, Chick might make the mistake of asking my father how on earth he managed to play a particular shot. And my father would often (with a little gleam in his eye) say something like “It’s easy, just try swinging naturally”. The retort he would get immediately was usually “there’s nothing natural about this bloody game”!
What’s the point?
While my father probably did have some God given talent, in the same vein that most of us find that we’re better at some things than others, he also practiced for 2 to 3 hours a day as a kid living on a farm in rural Ireland in the evenings and played in hundreds of top class tournaments or match play events.
It’s highly unlikely that the first shots he ever hit were beauties – but, he created a repeatable and fluid swing through practice mingled with good techniques.
There’s an art to public speaking, but the skills can be learned
The truth is, it’s hard to become good at anything without practice. And while it’s said that you can get good at most things if you put 10,000 plus hours into learning your craft – I have some good news for you when it comes to public speaking…
…there is an art to it and the core skills involved can be learned. With the right coaching, most people can develop a reasonable level of competence and confidence in a reasonable short space of time.
And, even better news, it’s nowhere near as hard to learn as the game of golf!
Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve mentioned in other blogs, you will have to put in some hard yards to hone your craft – including:
- Analyzing your audience
- Thinking about what you want to say and why
- Simplifying your messages
- Preparing and practicing
But with the right amount of coaching, combined with practice and passion, you too could be on your way to appearing to be a ‘natural’!
And as you make this journey, remember that the essence of good speaking is about sharing something of value with your audiences – by making your messages easy to latch on to, relevant and actionable.
So, whether you’re sharing a vision of how things could be or inspiring others to realize their potential or work together to make things happen – be assured that even Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther Kings all had to start with a first step…and so can you.