Yup, that is one intimidating group you’re facing. Your colleagues.
The communication skills workshop participant confessed, “I was pretty nervous up there. Can’t believe it, but I was.” This after completing an opening exercise where the subject was…them.
“Them” was their colleagues in the company with whom they’re employed. THEM was their fellow emerging leaders. All in the same boat. All a part of an elite group of young professionals. And ALL of THEM doing the same exercise, in front of their peers!
(Ok, add a camera that offered them the option of reviewing their workshop stuff after the event. So maybe that caused the concern? The never-blinking, judgement-filled digital demon?)
“Them”. “Those people”. “They”. Tough Audience all around us. Really?
Yeah, it’s real. It’s been confirmed over and over in workshops I’ve led that stepping up in front of an audience, regardless of how many and who it is can prove to be a stressful-at-least, debilitating-at-most situation.
“Look at these people,” I encouraged the young leader, “They’re your colleagues, your biggest supporters, your FANS! You’re nervous talking in front of them?!”.
Again, this energy is indeed very real. That’s real stuff coming at you from one person or a thousand. And this powerful energy manifests itself in the worst way when you’re trying to communicate.
Clammy hands, dry mouth, muddled thoughts, twisted tongue, shallow breath, shaking legs, sweaty areas—experienced any of these? All things that have nothing at all to do with helping you as communicator, right? Oh yeah, I prefer to have my heart pounding when I go to talk to someone!
Let’s go with the often talked about “fight or flight” dynamic. I buy it. When assessing a seemingly dangerous situation (talking with people is dangerous?) the body works quickly to make a decision—to stay or to leave. And fast. It’s prepping itself to go to battle or to run away with great speed. So adrenaline starts pumping. That potent hormone doesn’t give a crap that you’re going to talk now and it will consume you.
If you let it.
My pivotal conversation with this energy, with “Adren” (let’s give it a name, persona and even a body shape/color ‘cuz that’s how it appeared to me so it must be right) happened backstage at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre just before I went on as Regan in “The Tale of Lear”. I could not get my breath under control—’c’mon, c’mon, low in my body, deep from the diaphragm, slowed and strong’. Adren was pestering me with his virile vigor. Finally, I said, (yes, out loud) “LOOK! If you’re going to be with me night after night why don’t you COME WITH ME out there. I could really USE YOUR HELP!”
Adren paused, looked at me, then slowly turned to cast his glare not at me but rather at what I was trying to accomplish. Emboldened, he looked with me onstage and to the waiting audience.
How about accepting the fact that Adren (name yours what you like) will be there, in small or large dosage, whenever you go to communicate with an Audience? How ‘bout letting Adren be a go-to, mighty weapon in your arsenal? What if you were to accept that there is actually effective fuel that can be distilled from fear and empower you to:
- Listen more acutely
- See more brilliantly
- Stand with incredible strength
- Move with purpose and authority
- Sense with heightened awareness
Can you really leverage Fuel from Fear?
It’s your stage. Your performance. You’re on!