I had the great fortune to be able to coach my niece this past week as she prepared to deliver the Valedictorian Address at her high school graduation. Her first real public speaking opportunity and it is in front of several hundred people including all your relatives and friends. A daunting task I am sure for any eighteen year old and perhaps even a veteran speaker or two.
She and I worked through the ideas of what to say and then how to say it. We talked about nervousness and pacing. We talked about breathing and pausing where appropriate. We talked about humor and when and when not to use it. It was a great back and forth and I was completely impressed with her thought process and how she arranged her comments in a way that would bring meaning to this great event. But hey, she was the Valedictorian, did I expect any less?
As we concluded that the speech was a good one and she was ready to begin a couple of days of practice before the big event, I was reminded of a great lesson I have learned over and over as a person doing regular public speaking events: the mindset you go to the stage with will determine the greatness of this moment for you and for your audience. So my final advice to Rebecca was this – “There are two mindsets to choose from when you take that stage. Choose now and remember it when you are on the stage.”
The Two Mindsets
I had a friend some years ago who corrected the language I was using when it came to giving a speech or teaching a lesson in front of an audience of any size. Ever since that time I remind myself often of The Two Mindsets and I make sure that I intentionally choose which it will be before any and every event. If I am not intentional I almost always default to the wrong mindset.
Mindset #1 – I HAVE to do this. This is usually expressed like this: I have to do this report. I have to go to my parents house. I have to give a speech to my graduating class. This mindset sends you into your task with an underlying attitude of just getting it over with. Oh please just let me survive and move on to something else. I cannot wait until this is over.
Mindset #2 – I GET to do this. This is usually expressed like this: I get to drive my brother to the mall. I get to start a new project at work. I get to give a speech to my graduating class. This mindset sends you into your task with an underlying attitude that this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I can’t wait to get on that stage (or with my team, or with my family, etc.) and encourage this audience (whether it is one or one thousand).
As you can probably guess, Mindset #1 leads to fear, uncertainty and doubt. Your focus is on YOU and you are worried mainly about surviving. It always leads to an inferior performance. And that performance might be in front of a large audience or in front of your spouse or children. It might be in front of your class or in front of your parents. The size of the audience does not matter, your choice of mindsets is what will matter.
Mindset #2 leads to strength, certainty and presence. The focus is on the audience and how you can add value to their lives in these precious few minutes you have with them. Whether your audience is 1 or 1000, choosing an “others oriented” approach and an “I GET TO” mindset will establish an energy in you that will carry through the toughest of assignments.
Does choosing Mindset #2 mean you won’t be nervous? Of course not, but it does mean that you can take any nervousness you have and redirect it into a positive energy that both you and your audience can use for good.
My niece alerted me a few minutes before she took the stage that she was choosing #2. Then she smiled, turned and took the stage. I can attest to the fact that she did in fact take the #2 mindset to that stage and she delivered an amazing speech. For her first major public speaking event she was poised, articulate and funny. Her classmates, teachers, family and friends were all impressed by her ability and touched by her words. She did in fact encourage and exhort them in those few minutes on that stage.
What mindset will you choose for your next assignment? Will you “have” to go and do it or will you “get” to go and do it. The choice is completely yours and your audience, be it 1 or 1000, will know immediately which one you chose.