Getting Over Yourself

February 19, 2018

“Drop it. And forgive yourself.” Lindsey Jacobellis

When something goes wrong in the Olympics it’s a much bigger stage than most of us will ever have. And no matter how much time you have spent preparing for a talk, an Olympian has you beat. So, I’d say if that’s what this Olympic athlete strives for (drop it and forgive yourself), that it would be a good goal for us — whether we’re giving a speech or have just messed up in some other area of life. There’s no fixing it, no moving, when you keep beating yourself up. There is no upside to that.

When you drop it and forgive yourself, you can move forward. Learn what you need to and do better the next time.


June 14, 2016

Muhammad Ali vs. Donald Trump

In listening to recent video clips played after Muhammad Ali’s passing, it struck me that while he and Donald Trump both speak with total conviction, there’s a difference in attitude.

Ali always had a touch of playfulness as he said, “I’m the Greatest!” It always felt to me like we were enjoying it with him. Trump is obviously having a good time, but it feels much more heavy-handed and more about him.

What does that mean for our speaking? We can see how important it is to speak with conviction and not let doubts about our value enter into our speaking. And also that you can be passionate with sounding personal or angry.

There are speaking lessons all around us if we’ll take a moment to look at speakers objectively to see just what about their speaking works or doesn’t work.

Saves a lot of trial and error and moves us forward faster.

March 24, 2016

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”–Donald? are you there?

Although I’ve never subscribed to that concept (saying you’re sorry to a loved one can make a huge difference), apparently Donald Trump does. Clearly his supporters love him regardless of what he says or does–they may even love him, in part, because he doesn’t apologize. And, it’s obvious that he is committed to standing by what he says and never apologizing. We’ll know after the election if that was a good overall strategy.

However it works out for him, I don’t recommend that you emulate this model.

There are, of course, people who apologize for everything all the time and it’s annoying. Apologizing inappropriately just draws attention and not admiration. Definitely not a leadership quality.

Yet, there is a time when apologizing gets you more credibility–with your family, your co-workers, your boss, your employees. If when you are wrong, you acknowledge it, own it, and move on–with no sense of shame or loss of credibility, you’ll get more credit and more cooperation.


July 2, 2013

Don’t let them see you sweat!

Actually, it’s okay, and better than putting all your energy into trying to cover up your mistakes. We don’t want to look bad–to ourselves or to others. So, when things don’t feel like they’re going well, it’s tempting to pretend there’s no problem and just plow ahead.

It’s easy to feel like we’ll lose credibility if we acknowledge some blip in the presentation (or most of the rest of the time, as well).

Pretending can separate you from your audience because it takes so much effort that you’re no longer connecting with them.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people throw themselves on the mercy of the audience (“I’m really nervous.”) which may or may not work. You may win them to your side but you better have something to say. That alone isn’t enough. They’ll give you the benefit of the doubt as long as you deliver the goods.

Be human, (it’s okay to let them see it), and stay on point. Wandering off mentally to try to fool the audience will do more harm than accepting the problem and getting back on track.


May 6, 2013

Feeling like the stupidest person in the world won’t help

It’s interesting how we can know we’re smart and still feel stupid. Maybe it’s because we know we’re smart that anything that doesn’t measure up to our standards triggers that latent fear of doing or saying something stupid. Nobody likes to be laughed at (when they didn’t mean to be funny) and it can be convenient to make fun of our stupidity before someone else can. (A little aside here: you’re not unique in this. A lot of people in your audience suffer from the same fear.)

It’s a recipe for disaster. Since I tend to focus on speaking as my topic, think of what that does to you as a speaker. You’re never seeing the situation clearly because you’re filtering what’s going on rather than focusing on getting the job done. Anticipating how your stupid side might kick in and ruin everything tarnishes your brilliance and is a stumbling block to reaching your goal in that presentation.

Logically you know you’re not stupid (unless you keep repeating the same mistakes without learning anything), yet you may be allowing this fiction to color situations you could be acing. Get out of the way. Get out of the way. Get out of the way. When you do, you’ll reach your audience successfully.

March 6, 2013

Which mistakes actually affect your presentation?

Not every mistake is created equal. In almost every case, it’s not the mistake that turns the audience away from you, but how you handle it. What will wreck your presentation, in almost every case, is not connecting with your audience.

So, let’s say you trip over your shoelace or make a mistake with your data — if you try to pretend it didn’t happen, you’ve disconnected. The audience doesn’t see you as human because you’re trying to pretend you’re not. Probably in the quest of being perfect.

If, on the other hand, at some point in your talk you realize you have been talking over their heads, are boring them, have made a huge mistake in information, and stop, clap your hand to your forehead (really or metaphorically) and speak right to the audience –human being to human being–you can get them on your side and move along. Because the alternative of continuing in the same boring or inappropriate vein will get you nowhere.

I don’t expect you to hope for mistakes, but you don’t have to fear their ruining your presentation–if you’re just willing to stop to fix it in a human way.

September 27, 2012

Speaking tips on YouTube

If you’re not comfortable speaking, you’ll get some good ideas about how to deal with that in this 4 minute video. They are excerpts from some of my classes. There’s none of the usual humor that goes on in a class, but some good solid things to think about.

August 7, 2012

What Dr. Michael Gervais told Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings

Here’s a gem passed along by the announcers as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings competed in their Olympic beach volleyball playoff against the Italians: “Confidence is a little voice that says, “you belong.” (Sports psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais)

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from that piece of wisdom.

You’re the one who gets to program that little voice. Your choice. An objective assessment of any given situation – speech, networking, job interview, etc. – can help you reach that conclusion: You belong. It’s the counterproductive “noise” voice that gets in the way.

When you know you belong, you can trust your instincts and do or say the right thing–or keep your mouth shut.

Cultivate the “little voice” and just say, “no” to the noise.

June 10, 2012

Do people really care what you look like?

The right answers to that question make you a better speaker.

Of course, our frame of reference is “us.” If we notice people at all it’s like this: I look better than you; I don’t look as good. I’m older; I’m younger. My suit is better; my suit is worse. At least my hair looks better than that; I wish my hair looked that good. We notice what most concerns us about ourselves. All this can happen in a millisecond as we pass people on the street.
It can happen when you’re standing in front of an audience, too. but the frame of reference is always “me” for the speaker and for the audience.

Indeed, people may notice you. But why not let them forget it after they’ve noticed? Yes, she’s tall. Yes, he’s older than the rest of us. Yes, that tie clashes with his shirt. Yes, she has bushy hair. They’re just glad it’s not them. They may notice, but they’ll notice and move on—if you let them.

If you worry about how they’ll react or what they’re thinking, you’ll suffer the consequences. that’s why the goal is to be invisible. Realize it’s human nature to notice; it’s your job to realize that’s how things work, and to move on. Connect with the audience, allow them not to be distracted, get them to focus on your message.

As the audience, we focus where you focus. It’s inevitable (short of a disaster or a huge bandage on your head—in which case deal with that distraction until they’re ready to move on).

We don’t want to be left out. We’re curious. If you’re interested, we’re interested. Our frame of reference is still us. Now, however, we’re focused on applying your information to our lives. It’s our goal. Make it yours. You’ll be invisible and successful.

May 29, 2012

What’s so hard about networking?

New situations make most people uncomfortable: a party, meeting new in-laws, networking, etc. It’s more fun if you’re comfortable, and getting over yourself makes it happen. It’s about giving yourself permission.

As a designated greeter, most people automatically accept that as permission to walk up to people they don’t know, welcome them and orient them. And they’ll do it with or without a badge.

So, when you’re networking, think about questions you can ask that will give the other person something to talk about. Once you’ve got the conversation going, you’re probably okay. It’s the initial contact that tends to be hard for people.

Give yourself permission in any situation you’ll get the same result. You’ll be perceived as gracious, credible and friendly and you’ll also feel focused and at ease

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