Skip to main content

The Difficulty with Public Speaking

By 6th December 2017January 17th, 2022No Comments

Back when we lived in the forests and were in danger of malicious attack we sought safety in groups. We felt exposed or threatened when out on our own. Reasonable!? Thankfully this danger is not present for most of nowadays, yet the instinct remains…

According to Mark Twain “There are only two types of speakers in this world, the nervous and the liars“. No argument there. While studying “way back when” a considerable emphasis was put on presentations and public speaking. Cold sweaty hands and elevated heart rates; a weekly occurrence before addressing a group. This nervousness has softened with time however at 31 I still get occasional anxiety pangs pre public speaking.

What to do then when your livelihood depends on the ability to speak publicly and helping others do the same? For many years I missed was the most important part of communication: Listening. We value communication very highly here at CrossFit 353. However, similar to mood or emotion it can be difficult to quantify, review and develop. For me the primary determinant on how effectively one communicates is how clearly the message is being received by the recipient(s).

Standing atop any full room you are exposed. You are vulnerable. How can you become comfortable in this setting? Firstly know your detail – inside out. Then deliver it short concise sentences. Speaking in public affords (you &) others a window into your soul. Your mouth may be saying one thing but others are consuming every sinew of your being:

  • Appearance;
  • Body language;
  • Clarity of diction and message;
  • Tone, speed and word choice;
  • How you deal with others;
  • The way you deliver;
  • How you feel about yourself;
  • And most importantly  – why are you delivering at all?

Once a word leaves your mouth its gone, never to be retrieved. Sometimes I’m frivolous with word choice and mash many together and lose impact. Less. Is. More. What impacts our ability to deliver clearly? Nerves , Confidence, Self Esteem, Preparation, other? I’ve had coaches growing up who’s main motivation (seemingly) was “to be in charge”. The thought of questioning someone like this was ludicrous. Any challenge was an attack on the individual rather than an opportunity for shared learning, growth and improvement. Our lives are packed with busy jobs, busy families, busy commutes and even busier social media addictions. I found myself watching Vogue Williams on RTÉ recently. Vogue was spending upwards of 7 hours a day scrolling through her phone some days. Scary…

So what you might say? I like scrolling insta and posting selfies on snapchat. Fair enough I suppose… Well other than rotting our brains and driving us to depression. Or, driving manic (wholly unintended) impulse purchase behaviour to try and consciously or otherwise emulate the “social influencers” we surreptitiously watch so hawkishly. The facebooks of this world are eradicating our attention spans. Unless  immediately stimulated we scroll on. The latter is one reason why 353 is a device free environment. Apart from the dangers and difficulties of trying to coach a group while Gary is taking ‘butt-boomerangs’ in the corner, it also represents perhaps the only waking hour that somebody gets a break from the incessant mind melting otherwise permanently attached to the end of our hand.

Sorry, I went off on one there…the point was at any given time here in CrossFit 353 we could have ten different nationalities with varying levels of english. Maybe some didn’t sleep well last night. Maybe some are going through a tough time at home/work. What do these people need from us and how can we best deliver it? Our job is to elevate them through expectation. We can only do this if we ooze enthusiasm, deliver energetically and with excitement and ensure all the aforementioned sinews of our being are singing in harmony : “I fucking love right here right now”

I believe the way somebody treats another is a direct reflection on how they feel about themselves. To communicate effectively I think we need to be comfortable being vulnerable. We need to be open with the people we’re trying to communicate with. People are inherently good. Accordingly nobody wants you to fail, in fact quite the opposite. I wonder can we get out of our own way. Speak less and listen more. I know it’s something I’m trying to do daily. Peace.

– Peter Burke

Leave a Reply