Being invited to speak at an in person or virtual event can be a wonderful honour given to the potential speaker by those who want to hear the speaker’s message and share it with others. However, for some, it can be a great cause of anxiety and fear, with the thought that all those eyes will be on them and focused on everything that’s said.
The ability to be a good speaker doesn’t always go hand in hand with the ability to do it easily. It takes practice. I have spoken with many who are fantastic speakers, but they are extremely nervous before hand to the point of being physically ill. Just remember, if you are in this group of uneasy speakers, you’re not alone! So, then what? What can be done to make this easier, or at least get you through it?
Keep these few things in mind when getting ready to speak to a group when you may be feeling less than confident:
Your audience is there because they want to be: For the most part, people attending a conference, meeting or lecture are there because they chose to be there, they want to hear your message and will be supportive of your efforts. Attendees tend to not be judgmental, are not making snap decisions about you based on your haircut, clothes etc. and are there to hear what you have to say, even if they’re there not by choice (perhaps they have been instructed to go by their boss), these attendees, will most likely just listen politely.
Change your worry to excitement: This is a tough one because you’re so focused on the negative aspects of what you think may happen. What if you switched your thought process and redirected it to excitement at the possibilities of doing a great job? Go into it with a positive outlook and understand that even if it doesn’t go the way you want, you still did it! You would have accomplished a major step in your own personal development and that’s awesome!
Practice and prepare: Practicing the presentation before hand helps a lot. Try getting a small audience together or even just practice by yourself. Give yourself a few days in advance to do this. Go through and read your presentation, re-write if you have to and make a few speaking notes for yourself as a guide. By taking these steps to practice and prepare, you’ll be more familiar with the material, therefore making it easier to engage in a conversational type of presentation and making eye contact with your audience, instead of looking at your notes. Another great place to practice amongst a supportive group would be to contact your local Toastmaster’s group.
Know the environment: If you’re in-person, make yourself familiar with the presentation venue and environment so you’re more comfortable before speaking. Arrive ahead of time, sit in various places in the room for a few minutes to get different visual perspectives and get settled in. Own the space.
Interact with your audience: If you’re worried about the audience getting bored, make sure to leave room for people to ask questions. Listening to their questions can give you a little break as well to take a drink of water and re-group as needed. This can also help you gain some extra time on your presentation if it seems to be too short. Remember to be welcoming of questions and stay calm.
Take care of yourself: Get plenty of rest, eat well and taking the time to pamper yourself a little before the presentation day provides a little extra boost and don’t forget to give yourself a little time to use the restroom before the presentation. Make sure you have some water by your side to take sips to avoid a dry mouth while speaking. If possible, make sure you’re already standing up a few minutes before the presentation, so you don’t have to maneuver around obstacles to get to your place.
Are you in the audience? Perhaps you are reading this and are not a speaker, but frequently attend presentations. Why not do what you can to make the speaker feel confident and perhaps let them know what you enjoyed in their presentation? We’re all in this together. No matter the size of the group you are speaking to, you can do it and there are people in your audience that are in your corner. Be excited for this opportunity – you’ll do great!
If you’re one of those lucky workers out there who has found a place that suits you, whether it be in-office, remote or a hybrid of the two, congratulations! Having a place that you feel productive, content and comfortable can allow your talents to flourish and let you be your best is not always easy to accomplish.
I’ve operated my remote support agency for nearly 18 years. It took me a while to get used to working from an office set up in my personal space. I did eventually get used to a concept called ‘boundaries’ and now I wouldn’t work anywhere else. I’m the most productive in a quiet environment with no distractions. But that’s me; you will likely have a much different set of working environment needs than I do. And that is totally okay.
Having to live with a global pandemic these past almost two years has forced everyone to re-examine how and where work is completed. We’ve had to go that extra step and actually ask employees (rather than presume) what environment would help them be the most productive in their job. We’ve had to cross the line between a person’s personal needs and their work needs, and instead of saying in the interview ‘this is what you’re required to do, when and where’, we now ask in the interview, ‘what environment are you able to provide these deliverables?’ In this article, let’s look at the good, the not so bad and the manageable side of being a remote worker.
Forcing everyone to work remotely, especially last year, has helped us learn more about ourselves and what working environment we thrive in; doing so has also shown us what working environment we do not thrive in. This in itself is a great learning point and also shifts the relationship between employer and employee; just by asking what would help their employee get through their workday and by putting a telework agreement in place, tells the employee that their employer trusts them to complete their work, without being monitored. This alone can be a much-needed motivation boost. The remote worker may feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work knowing that they are in control, leading to a boost in productivity. Productivity can also result from the ability to work at a flexible schedule, taking advantage of more productive periods of the day rather than being in an office from 9 to 5 and being ‘on’ all the time. More ‘points’ scored there!
Some remote workers find they have a better sense of well-being with no commute to provide an extra source of stress, eating home-made lunches instead of office take-out and perhaps taking some of the old commute time and turning it into a work-out or walk. Even more points!
The Not So Bad
If working remotely suits you, as with any job, you need to be prepared. This includes making sure you have the proper tools to be a productive, content and comfortable worker. Working in a traditional office comes with many things that the worker is not responsible for providing, so it is important to understand what you will provide. For example, you may have a desk and chair at home somewhere, high speed Internet and some software. You need to ask what your employer will provide at their cost or pay you for, e.g. they may now reimburse your monthly Internet bill.
For all of these wonderful benefits of being a remote worker, there are some pitfalls that are important to address. While technology issues and a shortage of physical supplies or equipment may prove challenging, the solution for these is a simple fix, purchase or pick up from the office. However, there are some challenges that take a little bit more work and a little more effort to start some good remote worker habits.
Managing procrastination, distraction and time are key to get you in the best situation to be successful. Yes, it is true that these are also needed in the traditional office, but these things are even more important when you’re working remotely. Working in a traditional office when distracted or under the curse of procrastination can be managed easily as there are other people around you still working which can give you that little extra push to get back on track, but when you’re alone this is more of a challenge.
Either way, creating work habits that are conducive to getting the job done but leaving it when the work-day is over is incredibly important in being a successful remote worker. Consider having a closed office, letting family and friends know your work schedule (a.k.a. those ‘boundaries’), and having a good pair of headphones to cut down on noise will all help.
It’s likely that the time between work and home have now blended together, so leaving the home tasks for after work and leaving the work when it is time to take care of personal tasks can help (and stick to it!). For more ideas on dealing with distraction, flex-jobs has a quick list of solutions.
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” – Anthony Robbins
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
These two great quotes are making the same point while coming from different directions; the authors are saying that our lives are in our own hands and that we should look at all the parts of our lives honestly and make conscious choices confidently so that we may benefit.
We have the power to change our lives by using what we already have inside ourselves: Tony Robbins knows that lack of self-confidence often holds us back; Ralph Waldo Emerson shows us that it’s what’s inside of us that counts more than the past and the future.
Even though they haven’t written books called “Time Management”, these authors teach us a lot about successful time management and successful life management.
The past 19 months have taught us that time can stand still, expand to fill how long it takes a task to be done, stretch out endlessly before us or reduce itself so small that there simply isn’t enough of it. Yet, we all still have 24 hours in a day.
Another great quote is from David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done” and “Ready for Anything”. He gets right to the point when he says, “Time is just time, you can’t mismanage it. What that really means is that you mismanaged the agreement you had with yourself about what you should have accomplished.” He goes on to say that time management is really a complex issue of self-management where work needs to be captured, clarified, organized and reviewed in line with your purpose, values, vision, goals, and strategies. When these things are in line, you’ll feel good about how you’re managing time.
It’s inevitable. Change will happen whether you are expecting it, or not, in your personal lives, in society and in the workplace. Generally speaking, when we expect a change, it is more manageable to deal with and depending on what it is, it can be a good thing. Unexpected change is the one that takes a little more effort to get through as it may require a re-adaption to processes, environments and people around us.
So, what are some things we can do to manage unexpected change? We can’t plan for it. Forbes Magazine touches on a few methods to deal with change in the workplace, such as preparation calming fears, letting go of perfection, and so on.
Take a look at the situation objectively, removing thoughts that these changes are directed toward you.
Think of the potential that can grow from this change. Think positively about the “surprise”.
Keep up to date those things that have not changed by continuing to take care of yourself and maintaining your routines.
When change happens, it might be wise to take a look at the entire situation from an objective standpoint. Instead of focusing on how this is affecting you as an individual, take a look at the big picture. Was it perhaps necessary from an organization standpoint for your workplace to change in order to keep up with a changing industry? Are there redundancies your employer is trying to work with? At times, we may look at changes at work and think “What did I do to deserve this?”, but in fact it may not have been something you did or didn’t do, but something that just happens in the course of running an enterprise. No, it is not pretty and sometimes human beings have to make difficult decisions.
Consider that the changes at work are an open door to something new. Although change may be scary and it may not always be easy to flip around a negative impression already established, it may be needed to help you move forward. The opportunity to grow can found by moving past fears you may have about the change to come and making a decision that this change is going to be good. Maybe there is an opportunity to learn a new skill within your job as a result of this change, or maybe the new skills can be learned in leaving this job for another one. Either way this can be an opportunity to further develop your skillset and knowledge. If you are leaving to find a new opportunity, what you have learned in this job can help you determine the things you like or may not like in going to the next job.
During a time of work change it is very important to keep up with personal care and maintaining your regular routines. You might think “Well I’m not going into work so why should I bother getting up early?” Maintaining your schedule and using the time that would have been at work doing something productive can help stave off negative feelings and allow you to keep a sense of consistency during a time that may be anything but consistent. Regardless of the situation, stay strong and forge on to a better path carved out for you by change.
I started to reflect on the cause of why some days are more productive than others and landed on the concept of distractions; how one has a tendency of thinking back and thinking ahead. Have you ever caught yourself worrying about the tasks that need to be done later in the day or tomorrow, whether this or that will turn out the way you hope or stressing over things that happened yesterday or last week? I’ve found that the days where it is easier to get things done are the days where I am totally focused on the task at hand, in other words, I’m being in the present moment.
I can’t be the only one that has discovered this pattern, and this fits nicely with the term ‘mindfulness’. It’s one of those things we hear so much about, but what does it mean to be mindful? Some might think it is like meditating (that can happen as part of practicing mindfulness), or like forgetting about things (depends on what you are thinking about), but what it really means is to bring you to the present time and to be present and aware of what you are doing now, at this moment in time.
What is Mindfulness?
According to mindful.com, it is “…the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” That sounds simple but can be challenging in practice.
My colleague shared her own experience in trying to be mindful and said she lasted maybe two minutes before she became distracted. She tried it as just a re-adjustment of her thought processes to try to concentrate on what she was doing and even tried it through meditation. However, she didn’t give up. She started slowly with one simple process, when she found herself becoming overwhelmed and distracted, she stopped everything she was doing for a moment.
At that moment she decided that she was going to fix this through her thought processes by taking note of what she was thinking about the moment she felt overwhelmed. If it was something in the past or something not yet to take place, she stripped it away and thought to herself, “What am I doing right now?” She would listen to her breathing, acknowledge where she was in her physical location and set her mind to the task at hand. Turning back to what she was trying to accomplish she would attempt to focus on that alone.
Now that’s not saying there haven’t been many times where she tried and still became distracted, but the key was not giving up. Mindfulness is learning process and takes time and practice.
Why is it so important?
Some of the common benefits of practising mindfulness include:
better sleep patterns;
weight management (maybe because we are thinking about what we are eating);
reduction in automatic negative thought processes;
assistance in managing anxiety and depression;
improved general health (physical and mental); and
Even therapists that suggest mindfulness to their clients have noticed a change in how they provide therapy by practicing it themselves. As noted by the American Psychological Association in 2012, studies suggest that by practicing mindfulness, therapists not only benefit from the reduction of anxiety and depression but it is found to improve how they care for their clients through more empathy and compassion to their clients with improved skills in counselling.
There we have it! I focused and this blog is now finished! One small victory!
If you’re seeking your one small victory, don’t give up and remember:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.”― Buddha