The one, most important thing in public speaking

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By Raju Mandhyan

IT DID not take me long to think about the answer when I was asked the question, “What is that one, most important thing about succeeding at public speaking?”

Well, first one must consider the obstacle — some people call it the fear of public speaking and naturally shy people call it nervousness. My choice of the word to represent this malady is anxiety. Most people, whether they are the front-liners or the head honchos of an organization, they are all anxious about having to face an audience.

So, before we go into how to manage it and succeed at the interaction let us consider the source of this anxiety and the cause of this malady.

In my opinion this anxiety is generated from two aspects, two sources. First, it is generated by the fact that the speaker thinks that the audience may be too good for her. That means, they may be too knowledgeable, way too intelligent, and way to classy for her. And, that they may perceive her wrongly and may judge her too harshly. The second source is that the speaker may feel that he is too classy, much too knowledgeable, and much too advanced for the audience he is to address.

Both these extremes, if I may say so, arise from a misplaced self-image, warped self-esteem, or the manifestation of a false ego. This internal misperception and an external behavior that makes an effort to put on a show create a discord, a dissonance, and a lack of congruence in the speaker. That lack of congruence is seen and sensed by the audience and thus, they too tune out. When they tune out, the speaker and his performance come crashing down too. This does not just happen on the speaking stage but also occurs on all leadership platforms. Scroll down the history of the world and you will see that leaders came crashing down when they did not say or do what they meant or meant to do what they had said they would.

How do you manage to survive and thrive through this?

As a speaker, just before you speak and throughout speaking you need to step out of your own skin and stay vulnerable. You need to stop focusing excessively upon how good you look or not, how well you speak or not, and how perfectly placed your content is for the event and the customer-audience. Your heart, your mind, and, sometimes, even your smartphone, need to just live and breathe in kindness and a deep desire for creating value for the audience. To make the customer king, while speaking, is to get out of your own way; get out of your own skin.

How is this done?

Considering that you have done all the homework you need to have done before the speaking event, you need to calm down. You need to let go of all concerns of not doing a good job. You need, also, let go of the entire negative and excessively brittle and moral self-talk. You need to deflate. You need to bring your attention to how you are breathing. To when your breathing stops sounding and feeling like you were pumping iron, or when you choke upon the sight of a dog that you are scared of. Your breathing needs to be even like that of a baby at sleep. It needs to go easy in, easy out and through the diaphragm. Rhythmic and calm, with your shoulders, eyes, and tongue as relaxed as possible.

The moment you deflate, ground yourself, and calm down then your attention will stop obsessing over yourself and move towards being present and conscious of your audience’s space, their current state, and then their learning needs. It is then that you can and will begin to shine as a speaker, a great communicator, and a leader that inspires and makes her world evolve beautifully. At this stage your interaction with your audience becomes a dance of love, of engagement, and co-creation.

That which works in public speaking, works in running fruitful meetings. That which works in public speaking, works in bringing the best out of others. That which works in public speaking, works in leading your world to a brighter tomorrow. This is the one, most important thing in most everything in life; being in the here and now and then taking the world into their future with humility and with compassion.


Raju Mandhyan is an author, coach and speaker.