Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Is your #publicspeaking strength also your weakness?

Maybe you've developed some of your speaking skills to the point where you feel they're actual strengths, or you've examined your approach to speaking so that you can take advantage of those strengths you already possess. Can that be a bad thing? Is your public speaking strength also the source of potential public speaking weakness for you?

In Don't Let Your Strengths Become Your Weaknesses, the authors of Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem describe some examples:
We've seen virtually every strength taken too far: confidence to the point of hubris, and humility to the point of diminishing oneself. We've seen vision drift into aimless dreaming, and focus narrow down to tunnel vision. Show us a strength and we'll give you an example where its overuse has compromised performance and probably even derailed a career.
How does this play out for public speakers and presenters? It's worth considering a few factors:
  • Personality preferences: Extroverts--those good at thinking out loud--may find themselves backed into a corner or tripped up by words that might have been better thought through. Likewise, introverts may lose their chance to speak up if they hesitate too long. And both types will revert to their opposite in times of stress, something important for you to keep in mind.
  • How you handle stress: A little stage fright or nerves before speaking is normal, and can help you focus and energize on the strength of the adrenaline. But if your nervousness keeps you on the sidelines, that's not a plus.
  • Strong preferences about speaking style or logistics: If you always insist on speaking at a lectern, and arrive to find there isn't one, or like to engage with questioners rather than give the formal speech that's wanted by the conference, sticking to your guns may lose you that speaking gig or gain you a reputation for being inflexible.
  • A fondness for technology: I've seen many speakers--too many--unable to give any part of their talk without their slides when the venue's technology failed. (And when I speak, I always let the organizers know that I can work with or without them, no matter what happens.) Clinging to a particular technology, be it the need for a remote to the inability to speak without slides, limits you as a speaker. Worse yet, it often happens at the last minute. A strength here would be developing a high comfort level with many tech options, as well as none at all.
What speaking strengths do you have that might turn into weaknesses, or vice versa? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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