Mark vs Cancer

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Decentralize Yourself

For many people, few things provoke more anxiety than public speaking. How many times have we all heard a semi-lame joke from a trembling church speaker about how, when the bishop called with the assignment, they wanted to run from the phone?

I don't think that the anxiety is typically induced by the content of the message one is giving. Rather, it's the self-presentation, the exposure, the potential for total public humiliation, that causes such terror.

But it doesn't need to be that way. In fact, I think its entirely possible to enjoy public speaking, and to do a good job of it.

The key is what I term "decentralizing yourself." This means to shift the emphasis of your talk from the messenger to the message. It's amazing how easy it is to confuse these two things.

When all eyes are on us, we have a tendency to feel the collective pressure of the audience, to palpably feel the social judgment that is likely being cast on us, and to ask ourselves, "Do they like me? Do they think I'm a stammering idiot?"

But here's the key: it's not about you. Or at least it shouldn't be. Let your message take center stage. The first crucial element here is to have something worth talking about. But assuming you have that, then take yourself out of the center of the frame -- "decentralize" -- and let the importance of your ideas take center stage. Let your persona be only a conduit that allows the subject matter to entertain, educate, and inspire.

In my experience, paradoxically, it's only this self-decentralization that allows you to really shine. It's the temporary abdication of ego that lets the self shine most brightly, a spiritual truth that applies to much more than just public speaking.

So next time you have to give a talk, remember this: don't tell a lame joke about how much you have dreaded the occasion; have something worthwhile to speak about; and as you prepare and before you actually speak, tell yourself over and over, "It's not about me. It's not about me."

Then go stand and deliver, baby. Give 'em something to remember.


Tankfos said...

I like all of the attention on me!!! Forget decentralizing! Me, me, me, me, it's all about me. And perhaps that is why everyone laughs at me when i speak.

Jeff said...

I concur, but some shyness/anxiety in my life does not appear to be under my conscious control. Like when I get up to sing or talk in church and one or both of my legs begin to shake.

Angie said...

That's awesome. Such words of wisdom. I think this principle also has to do with any service you give in the church, or service elsewhere. The less you think about yourself, the less you have to worry about what people are thinking about you, and you can focus on what you're doing that's so important.

About Jeff's legs shaking in church, I can attest that it does happen. You hide it well though, Babe. Your talks and musical numbers always blow everyone away...

Kristen said...

That was very good advice. I especially love when people tell us how unprepared they are, it really gets me excited to listen in.
I still don't know how to control the redness in my face and the red spots on my neck when I get nervous.
I haven't given a talk in so long, it makes me more nervous, like I have forgotten how to do it.
You have inspired me though... so come on Bishop give me a call. (ok, but maybe not for a while)

Kevin Bentch said...

Total agreement! The more I can forget myself - and just focus on the message - the better things go. Even so, it is good to hear from a trusted soul their impressions of the message.