„I’m telling you this with hope in my heart and trust that by offering patience to the initiative I’m going to tell you about will create an important and a long-awaited change. Before telling you what I’m going to tell you about, thank you for listening me, as I am sure you will consider my message important. As you think of it, with each word, my message becomes clearer to you and you can easily understand what I am saying. Let us find new ways of expressing ourselves… For, example, I…”
Overcoming public speaking fright
It is said that the second greatest possible fright, except for the one of dying, is the fright of public speaking. Fortunately for me, I have not met many people which were afraid to speak in public. Maybe during grade school. Public speaking is familiar environment for me.
The best exercise I recommend, out of my own experience, is getting in front of all while saying to yourself: “In 30 seconds, my mouth will start speaking. It would better say something useful.”. So I did. So will you. Another exercise: if someone would have a gun to your head and would tell you: “speak well in public now or I kill you”, how do you think you’d perform? You’d certainly do a better job if you knew your life depends on the quality of your delivery. For some, that IS the case. May they be presenters, trainers, lobbyists, attorneys, diplomats, press releases, politicians, the quality of their public speaking will determine how much money they will make. But this is not a study of what best public speakers do.
My intention is to familiarize you with the truth that everybody speaks in public. Better, worse. But if you think at it, all of us had to make a public presentation, or to address a public in a one-to-many communication instance. But what are the things to consider before doing public speaking in the HR world in an ethical fashion?
Public speaking is definitely a part of HR persons. Conferences. Board meetings. Employee meetings. Focus-groups. Evaluations. Fairs. Exhibitions. Workshops. Trainings. All these cannot be avoided.
How much of well planning makes for an ethical delivery?
First thing to consider is: “be themselves”. If you address a public, you must know that public. Who’s in it, what degree of information do they have on the topic you’re speaking, what is their interest in the topic, what kind of questions they will put, etc. It’s a sign of respect towards your message, to each of the participants in the public and to the organizers. And also consider these days anyone can video / audio record you with a simple phone or mp 3 player, not to mention the photos. Then, they can be placed on the internet, tagged with your name and accessed by anyone, for the rest of eternity. If you don’t have respect for all of these, you will be remembered. It’s not only the skills that you put to practice, but also your values.
Of course the better job you do on planning your speech, of taking care of the surroundings (light, height, noise, distance, temperature, technology settings, etc.), the better you will show respect for your public. These might seem as the organizers’ responsibility. But if you really care about your personal brand, your message and the public, make it your responsibility to triple-check.
Let’s assume you address a public well educated, well informed and interested in the subject matter you present. The audience has been pre-selected and you’ve put certain questions at the beginning to make sure you’re on the same page. Now you’ve got their attention. You have the formal authority in the room. From this moment, if you skillfully use your persuasiveness, you can imprint any ideas into their minds. You may masterfully conceive your speech so that they would understand and maybe agree to it, at least until a certain point. You may even manipulate them.
Beyond that, it lies the question: what is the line between influencing, persuasion and manipulation? When does it serve well and when does it not?
First of all, none of these have negative meaning by themselves. A mother may manipulate her children by saying: “Do you prefer to drink the [bad tasting] medicine from the white cup or from the blue cup?”, using a double bind to determinate an action. Some would not consider this as manipulation, because, some say, manipulation is always negative. Instead of ranting on the concepts: responsibility; accountability; life lessons; we’ll do some practice.
Let’s come back to the fine distinction between influencing, persuading and manipulating someone. Although there are uncountable ways of doing any of these, let’s just say we want to send the message that using seat belts during driving for all the passengers saves lives. Noble idea, don’t you think? We’ll see.
When you’ll start to think about this, you will naturally find what I’m saying to you as more and more interesting. “Looking at the accidents statistics in USA, in 2004, more persons which did not use a seat belt died in accidents than those who who were wearing / although, according to the federal statistics, more than 80% of the drivers use belts. […] Apparently not wearing the seat belt during driving the car is about the same thing as having a dagger installed on the driving wheel.”. Before thinking further on the way this affects our lives, let us consider all the small differences seeming minor details like putting the seat belt on before driving to actually truly understand the real effect of those seemingly minor details. The difference between using and not using your seat belt might be the difference between life and death.
Close your eyes. [the light gets dimmer] Imagine yourself riding in a top notch car on a freeway. [appropriate music] You feel the wind and all the things around you. You get to an intersection. You slow down, but not in due time and a truck gets into your face from nowhere. You have no time to react. [the lights close] It all went dark. [silence for a few moments]. You just died because you didn’t wear a seat belt [lights open up brightly] Welcome back!
The light gets dimmer. You present a video of a guy named David, with his wife, Molly and their son, Tommy. They are joyful, playing in the garden. Then you show some pictures with them getting in the family car. Then you put on the morgue pictures of David, Molly and Tommy. They didn’t use the seat belt. You rapidly shoot some statistics to the people, on the big colorful graphics display. In the end, you take a moment in silence, honoring David, Molly, Tommy and the other thousands of people who lost their lives during X period in the Y zone and say a prayer.