Between sessions, I saw a young man who worked for one of the conference sponsors reading something. I asked him what he was reading, and he said he was going over his notes for his upcoming presentation.
"Excellent," I commented. "What will you be talking about?"
Our product," he replied. Then he added, "I'm probably going to bore everyone."
"Why would it bore everyone?" I asked. "Well," he said, "because it's a boring presentation."
Now I was really intrigued. I asked again why it's boring and got a similar response: "It's just not very interesting."
I kind of felt sorry for the guy, but thought maybe I could help him out.
I continued, "Certainly, it's interesting to you. You must have some enthusiasm for the topic -- the product you are here to sell! How can you share that enthusiasm with the folks who will be listening?"
"No," he replied, "I don't really find the topic interesting at all. I don't have any enthusiasm for it."
You can't give what you haven't got -- and the most important thing you can have when speaking is your enthusiasm for your topic. But having enthusiasm isn't enough. You have to be enthusiastic, and you have to be able to share your enthusiasm with others. But the biggest inhibitor to sharing enthusiasm is self-consciousness.
Therein, I believe, lays the great secret to effective public speaking.
Public speaking is a giving act. You are giving of yourself - your insights, your experience, your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your stories, your being. The effective speaker is fully tuned in to the people he or she is speaking to - fully conscious of their presence, their reaction, their needs - fully other-conscious. This leaves no room for self. No room for self-consciousness.
Next post, I'd like to explore this idea of being fully "other-conscious" a little more deeply. In the meantime, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about how being "self-conscious" can inhibit a speaker's effectiveness.