Public Speaking Help for the Tongue Tied Exec

Public Speaking Help for the Tongue Tied Exec-Image via Wikipedia

Why are leaders with prestigious pedigrees, proven track records of success, and great visions for the future spending sleepless nights worrying, preparing, over-preparing their speaking?

“What’s really ratcheting up the anxiety is not only the visibility afforded by today’s broadband, YouTube environment, but the demand that leaders be out there capitalizing on these media,” says Anett D. Grant, president of Executive Speaking, Inc., a global speaking company founded in 1979 and headquartered in Minneapolis, MN. “Leaders today need to be out front articulating their vision and demonstrating their leadership presence – on demand. The option of managing this anxiety through avoidance is gone.”

While many anxious leaders choose to tough it out, charge forward, and just get through it, this approach is perilous, says Grant. “Anxiety does not just make executives feel uncomfortable; anxiety has many unconscious impacts on their behavior – anxiety can definitely derail performance and even kill careers.”

One of the most significant impacts of anxiety is on facial expression. Anxious speakers often have fixed facial expressions – brows that stay furrowed, smiles that remain frozen. Anxious speakers wear these expression masks unconsciously – oblivious to the impact these expressions have on their ability to project authenticity and engagement.

Another one of the impacts of anxiety is on coherence and focus. Like a spiral that accelerates around a vortex, anxious speakers get into a speaking spin, and then go into a detail, then into another detail, and then into more detail about the detail about the detail about the detail – unconsciously. They begin talking, they feel uncomfortable – they talk more. “The more they talk in an unconscious attempt to feel better, the less they engage their audience. The less they engage their audience, the more they accelerate their rate of speaking and gesturing. At this stage the speaker often feels better, but the impact of the behavior is disastrous,” says Grant.

“I had a senior leader who spoke three languages, had led a major innovation in medical device technology, and had a history of success sent to work with me because his company said, ‘He speaks like a buffoon.'”

Another one of the unconscious impacts of anxiety is on sentence structure. Anxious speakers tend to speak in long, complex sentences as if they were reciting an article. As the length and complexity of each sentence increases, the anxious speaker loses all sense of phrasing and rhythm. Their speaking becomes increasingly punctuated with “ahs,” “ers,” “you knows,” and other dis-fluencies. “As anxious speakers strive to arrest this arrhythmic pattern, their speaking becomes even more halting and disjointed. As I explained to one client who had no awareness of his repeated pausing and sputtering,” says Grant, “if he skied like he spoke, it would take him four hours to get down a hill.”

What these unconscious impacts demonstrate is that leaders today have to reach new levels of self-awareness and understanding in order to reach authentic, powerful levels of performance – on demand.

For insights and strategies for mastering speaking anxiety for senior executives, call Anett D. Grant, President, Executive Speaking, Inc. at 612-338-5748.

Executive Speaking, Inc. coaches leaders from around the globe from companies including DHL Express, National Public Radio, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., MasterCard, Inc., Medtronic, Inc., BP, Bank of America Corporation, Polo Ralph Lauren, UnitedHealth Group Inc., Nestle, HanesBrands, Inc., L3 Communications Holdings, Inc., Estee Lauder Companies, Inc., Symantec Corporation, General Electric Company, PepsiCo, Inc., Dell, Inc., General Mills, Inc., Cargill, Inc., Bank of America Corporation, 3M Company, Ford Motor Company, Motorola, Inc., HP, Adobe Systems, Inc., SABMiller, Coca-Cola Company, SABIC, Verizon Communications, Inc., and Pfizer, Inc.


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