Public speaking is bound to uncomfortable at times. Things happen. Audiences happen. You will make mistakes. All these lead to psychological discomfort. My last post suggested that you get comfortable getting uncomfortable so you can react in the best was possible.
That post introduced a method suggested by Kevin Getch; Go into a crowded coffee shop, setup, and present. Definitely going to be a challenge of embarrassment and social discomfort; it’s also probably a bit to much for most of us.
This post presents ways you can practice dealing with psychological discomfort, training to be more comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve ordered them approximately in an order from ‘easiest’ to most challenging. However, there are ways to scale up the challenge in many of the introduced methods, making them potential valid for most.
Starting from scared
- Speak up in a meeting: this one is here for those that are very self-conscious. If speaking up in a meeting makes you uncomfortable, this is a good place to start. With the size and importance of the meeting, the challenge goes up.
- Introduce yourself: take the initiative and introduce yourself. Simple is better: “Hi I’m ____”.
- random persons: the more the situation makes this random, generally the more challenging this is. At a social event or mixer, introducing yourself is natural, even if you don’t feel natural doing it. Introducing yourself to a random person in a shop or on the bus is less usual and will be more uncomfortable.
- social event/mixer: set yourself a goal on how many people you’ll introduce yourself too. The first time it might be 1. Next time 3. Then 10, etc.
- important person: the importance of the person is subjective, i.e. what value you put on the person. If it is someone you feel is important, this is a step up in difficulty.
- Public Speaking in friendly settings: Find friendly controlled places to speak. The supportive nature should help you deal with anything that comes up. A good option here is VR, like our product.
- Public Speaking: standard engagements of public speaking will, over time, provide opportunities to work on this as things happen. The drawback is you have very little control.
- Extemporary Speaking: is when the topic of your talk is known to you only a short time beforehand, e.g. 30 seconds. This has two points, one is to get you to think on your feet, quickly organize your thoughts and how to present. The other part is though that it is going to be uncomfortable.
- Speaking clubs and even training courses often require/provide opportunities to do this, e.g. Toastmaster’s Table Topics.
- Have someone else select a random topic. Start Virtual Orator. When the environment comes up, go!
- Slide Roulette: Present with someone else’s/random slides. You have to react to each slide as they come, providing nearly guaranteed embarrassment. Try this out in Virtual Orator, with friends, or create an event.
- Approach a group of people to introduce yourself/join in. This is a big psychological challenge for many people.
- open group: start with a group who’s arrangement is open, i.e. there is space in the circle where you can fit in. Join. When there is a pause in the conversation, introduce yourself or join in. Another cue is when you get eye contact from the others.
- closed group: I’ve seen many people do this. I’m not always sure it’s a good idea, as it probably leaves a certain impression. You are somewhat of an invader, so the social pressure should be uncomfortable.
- Virtual social space presentation. This is a easier variation of the coffee shop presentation below. Swap out the coffee shop for a virtual space that include other real people; Give your talk in VR social gathering space. While you know real people are hearing you, you know you are mostly anonymous.
- Dance in a public space. The embarrassment level is dependent here on how random your dancing seems, your own ability (or how you judge it), and the number of people watching.
Crush all doubt
- Open Mic: participant in an open mic event. Coffee shops sometimes hold these.
- Coffee Shop presentation: Randomly set up in a coffee shop and give your presentation as if it was real. Idea by Kevin Getch.
- SoapBox/Speaker’s Corner: the age old version of the above. Set up and present on the street. Some cities have specific spaces where this is allowed. As the name implies, bring a box, step up and present.
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a popular concept at the moment, particularly in the realm of physical activity. I find these to be quite different things personally, but there is certainly cross-over. Pushing yourself through the physical discomfort is an act of mental toughness. Developing that ability is bound to help you be able to push through psychological discomfort.
Go Practice being Uncomfortable
No matter your level of speaking confidence, situations that typically lead to discomfort are bound to happen. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable will allow you to react to these situations in the best possible way. I’ve presented an array of ideas on how you can get experience being in uncomfortable situations. Find one that fits your current level and embarrass yourself for your own good.
Got ideas for other useful uncomfortable situations? Share them with us on social media or below. I’ll update this post with the best ideas.
Dr. Blom is a long time researcher in the VR field. He is the founder of Virtual Human Technologies, which applies VR and avatar technologies to human problems and helping better understand people. Virtual Orator exists largely because Dr. Blom wishes he had had such a tool instead of the 'trail by fire' he went through learning to speak in public.