A colleague shared a helpful public speaking infographic. Click on the picture below to view the entire graphic:
It contains a lot of interesting information about the fear of public speaking and “hacks” to overcome those anxieties. We recommend you check it out for a good overview on some of the challenges we help attorneys face in their presentations.
The infographic incorporates many of the principles we teach, including “Plan to Forget” and the importance of practice, especially practicing the beginning of your presentation. Here are some excerpts from our book The Articulate Advocate that dig deeper into those concepts.
Perfection is Not the Goal
It’s unfortunate that “practice makes perfect” promises an impossible expectation. Forget perfection! Your goal in practicing is not to make yourself perfect but to make yourself better. Perfection as an advocate is not only out of reach, it isn’t even desirable. The jury doesn’t want you to be perfect, they want you to be human, with all the forgivable foibles and imperfections that implies. Your humanity makes you credible.
Practice is the Path to Expertise
Practice is the path to expertise. It is the only way to improve skill in any discipline. The more complex the skill, the more practice is required. Whether you want to be a better golfer, pianist, or advocate, solitary and mindful practice is absolutely essential. You cannot acquire and improve any skill just by thinking, reading, or writing about it. Yet a surprising number of attorneys don’t practice—alone and aloud—the skills of advocacy. Practice, while surprisingly hard work and challenging to fit into a busy lawyer’s life, is also a creative act. Once you know how to practice efficiently and effectively, you will begin to enjoy it.
Plan to Forget
Many advocates bury their noses in their notes because they’re gripped by the fear, “What if I forget?” But that’s the wrong question! The proper question to ask and answer is, “When I forget, how will I recover?” That you will forget periodically while speaking under pressure is a given. Plan to forget. Know that it is going to happen, and be prepared for when it does.
The transitional utterance “Let’s move on” can be a useful way to explain and justify your taking a look at your notes and pausing to gather your thoughts. You are moving on, so it makes sense to refer to your notes to see what is next. Or, you can use the same line simply to stop and think. Fact finders will understand what you are doing. You have announced that you are moving on, and they see that you are thinking. At this moment, trust silence and be comfortable with it. Trust that they are watching your cognitive wheels turn. Take your time and think about what should come next.
Practice the Beginning of Your Speech
Decide, in advance, exactly what you are going to say at the beginning of your presentation. This is one of the few times that you should practice saying verbatim—word for word—what you want to say in the first few sentences. Do not trust that on the spur of the moment you will spontaneously say exactly the right thing. It won’t happen.
For more suggestions on overcoming the challenge of beginning your presentation smoothly when nerves and adrenaline are taking over, read our blog called The Two-Minute Problem.