struggle with public speaking


It may surprise you to know that many senior executives and leaders struggle with public speaking.

More contemporaneously they struggle with public speaking on the two-dimensional stage that is the virtual work world.

Today’s leaders must be even better communicators because the flattening of the experience makes it that much tougher to engage their teams.  If your people do not feel engaged and connected, and if they do not believe leadership cares about them, you will lose them to organizations that have bridged that dispersed gap.

When we are comfortable speaking in front of large groups in person, when we stand up in front of the AGM or the board meeting, it is like performing on stage but when we are squeezed into the Zoom window it’s more like a television sit-com with the fourth wall missing.

Leaving aside all the technical aspects of the virtual platform, there are a few fundamental things to understand and plan for:

  1. Be clear on what you want to achieve in every communication. Do not make the mistake of focusing only on what that achievement looks like for YOU.
  2. Know your audience and understand how they are thinking and feeling. Are your staff feeling disconnected? Liberated? Stuck? Creative? Realize that we are all somewhat constrained by an ongoing anxiety that will not dissipate until this pandemic does and even then, may have residual impacts.
  3. Figure out how you come across and how your audiences see you. More to the point, do you have presence? Will people stay interested and engaged when you are talking to them on their screens? This is an area rich in potential because we are all better and stronger (potentially) than we know.
  4. Even before COVID pushed us into our little windows it was important to move beyond thinking your presentations and speeches were just information transfers or reporting out. Today it is abundantly clear that you must start thinking of yourself as a performer, not just a presenter.

Because it is tough to assess our own communications style and impact on others, feedback is a crucial piece of growth. If you have trusted colleagues, patient partners, or insightful offspring, use them! If you need professional coaching and critique, it’s easy to arrange. I welcome your questions.

Joanna Piros