I’m sure you’ve heard this popular joke by the American comedian Jerry Seinfeld: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
You get the idea, even some native speakers find public speaking scary. So I completely understand how non-native speakers must feel when they have to do the same thing in a language that isn’t their own.
Well, despite the scary reputation that appears to stick to this activity, thousands of non-native speakers every day are standing up and doing some sort of public speaking very successfully: promoting their services or products to international clients, leading meetings, presenting at conferences or doing keynote speeches.
How do they manage it?
If they’re like my clients, they use the 3 M’s to guide them:
1/ They are Mindful of how they are being in their communication
- They stop focusing so much on themselves and focus on their audience
What if I don’t understand? What if I don’t have the “right” word? What if I make a mistake? What if I look silly? What if something doesn’t work properly?
Imagine all those anxious thoughts battling it out in just one head, there is no room to think clearly. It’s impossible to be fully present in the moment, where our true speaking power lies.
Because what do we do when we feel nervous? Our heart rate increases and we automatically speak faster. Because we’re going too fast, we mispronounce certain words or don’t articulate enough. We rely on little filler words like “er” and “um” to try to connect our speedy thoughts and our message is lost in a mumble jumble of unclear words, hesitations and irrelevant details.
We lose our audience.