Name one non-professional speaker who doesn’t manifest a physical quirk or tic when they present to a group. You’ve seen the subtle or not so subtle signals of discomfort: the crossed legs, hands in pockets, eyes glued to the back of the room, hanging onto the podium for dear life.
One of my main responsibilities as a speaking coach is to name what I see. As a proxy for your audience, it is my job to point out the distractions that will take the spotlight off your message and put it on your bad habits. Believe me, you are not alone.
My own habit is to hold onto my eyeglasses when I present. My business partner, Barbara, reminded me during a recent workshop that I should be more aware of this. I nodded OK, but honestly, the bubble in my head said, “What’s the big deal. My eyeglasses are cool. I am a relaxed speaker, no one notices, and Barbara is being too critical here.” [Insert laugh track].
When we watched the video outtakes from our event, I was surprised. My glasses aren’t that cool. And though I am an easy-going presenter, it was crystal clear to me that I use my eyeglasses as a crutch. Something to hold in my hand. A safe barrier between me and all the people in front of me. Damn it! Now what?
It’s simple. Raise awareness and lower self-consciousness. Instead of the contracting, judgmental and egotistic response that self-consciousness engenders, such as “I’m being scrutinized,” “I’m making mistakes,” “I feel exposed,” seek the expansive, forgiving and fleeting awareness that says, “Oh here I am again, twirling my eyeglasses. Let me stop that behavior and continue focusing on the people in this audience.” I put my eyeglasses in my pocket and continue the conversation. And when I notice that I’m holding them again? Rinse and repeat. This simple process ensures that we are compassionately advancing our growth as speakers.