I’m British. You might say very British. I’m proud of this, but there are occasional problematic qualities of the British stereotype* when it comes to public speaking:

  • introverted
  • pessimistic
  • self-deprecating to the point of self-destruction

* Yes, it’s a stereotype and therefore a generalisation, but it features plenty of elements which I think are very common (I find the tweets from https://twitter.com/SoVeryBritish are pretty spot-on a lot of the time).

I believe that introversion is and self-deprecation in themselves are absolutely fine, but pessimism is a major problem. Here’s a little more depth on each, and some ways for you to give these issues a ruddy good punch on the nose:

Pessimism: in an important speaking situation such as a presentation, guess who your biggest opponent is. The hostile audience member? The person who knows more about the subject than you? Nope.

It’s you.

The worst typically British characteristic I see is deciding that something will fail before it’s started, and the saddest manifestation is when it’s aimed at yourself. I believe you should take an axe to that problem, and here’s how:

Remember that the audience is on your side. They want you to do well and for the whole thing to be a success. Any hostile audience members will be rejected by everyone else – they have no place there.

Visualise success. Sounds like psychobabble? Not at all, I use this technique all the time. Imagine yourself performing at optimum, being the brilliant confident speaker that you want to be (even better, visualise your previous successes). Fill your mind with images of yourself doing really well and you’ll re-program your subconscious in a very positive way. Sounds crazy, but it really works.

Any negative experience is something to learn from. Remember, mistakes are fine as long as you learn from them.

Self-Deprecation: this is fine in principle, but we Brits often overdo it, and sabotage our own success by apologising repeatedly for things that really don’t matter. The next time you give a presentation, try not apologising for anything, and see how it feels; counter-intuitive perhaps, but very liberating. The chances are that you won’t draw attention to the subtle shortcomings, and will help the audience dismiss the ones they do notice. Ooh, clever you.

Introversion: this is actually a positive trait in my opinion; it just gets labelled as negative because it’s seen as being ‘opposite’ to what’s required to communicate effectively. What tosh. It simply means that you don’t need interaction to re-charge; it won’t damage your presentation (you’re well-suited to the writing) or even the Q&A. The extroverted type isn’t necessarily a better speaker, their style just works better with interaction.

So, maintain your Britishness and quash the negative aspects. Jolly good.

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