Sunday, May 2, 2010

Guest post: Silencing my "you suck" self-talk

(Editor's note: I found this post of Janet Clarey's on Facebook, and asked to post it here because it's a wonderful perspective on introverts and public speaking, as well as overcoming the self-critic lurking within most of us when we get up to speak. Who do we think we are? Janet's found some new ways to figure that out.  Her Facebook profile says she's a "Former corporate cubicle dweller. Now work virtually from my home office. I blog professionally about the social web, research and write about learning technologies, present, teach, and (sometimes) attend graduate school at Syracuse University. I'm a 40-something Mom shuttling kids around with my AWESOME husband of 20 years."  Enjoy this good read and leave your comments below.)

I brought three books with me for my flights to Atlanta and then to Australia. The first one I read was Self-Promotion for Introverts. I flipped the book over whenever I set it down (including when it sat on the front seat of my rental car) because I really dislike the “self-promotion” in the title and didn’t want anyone to see it. If I saw someone with it I’d look to see if they really had an L on their forehead – you know as in ‘LOSER.’

The presentation section I read in great detail and I think it was one of two reasons my talk went well.

I made more eye contact. I loosened up by silencing the “you suck” backchannel in my brain. And I did that with music and dance. Seriously.

Music always has a profound effect on my mood and when possible, I try to listen to something I like prior to speaking. My choices are usually rock/hard rock. Probably not the best choice for me because I don’t need to get going, I need to chillax (chill out + relax = chillax). That genre isn’t really conducive to dance unless head-banging is dance to you.

I’ve tried self-talk before. You know, like Alec Baldwin’s character Jack Donaghy psych-up speech on the TV show 30 Rock. (Just do it. Is it in you? I’m lovin it.) Humor helps sometimes. Not always. Normally I act more like the Tina Fey character in this snippet.

(Note: the following videos in this post are not safe for work if you work at a lame company)

Anyway, this time, I did something different with music and I have my lovely daughter to thank (her playlist on my iPod is literally “my lovely daughter.” She must have known that would draw a smile).

The iPod often appears in the bathroom so one day I decided to turn it on while I showered. My daughter’s favorite genres are quite different than my own. I picked one of her short playlists. Empire State of Mind and Watcha Say really made me feel good and I found myself dancing in the shower (apologies for THAT visual).

Anyway, I played Empire State of Mind prior to my presentation and just wanted to get up on that stage and grind it out. Who knew? The words don’t mean much to me (the JayZ part anyway is rap w/ ‘n’ bombs and stuff) but it did the trick.

Perhaps a fluke, but I think it also brought out my real voice and not the voice I think I should project when presenting. In my mind the delivery for a presentation for CLOs would be very corporate, tight-lipped, ultra professional and laced with buzz words.

That’s not me. I kind of think I look like that Michael Bolton character on Office Space when he’s rapping. Embarrassing. Oddly, not so with Slipknot in the minivan which is actually more lame. It’s messed up.

So, the attendees – mostly CLOs – seemed cool with stories about my kids, my use of PG-13 profanity, humor, etc. So they seemed to like my style but better yet, I was OK with my style and I actually felt comfortable on stage. Hope it’s not a fluke (says the self-talk).

Try NOT to dance in the shower with this one…I can’t.

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