The Lie That Is Killing Your Communication Skills

“I am great at one-on-one conversations but am terrible at public speaking!” 

This is a myth and a lie we tell ourselves. 

Yes, there are differences in how we approach different communication contexts. For example, we speak differently when one-on-one, in a small group, and when presenting something publicly. But claiming that we are good in one context and wrong in another is just a way to justify our weaknesses and work to prove our value. 

Here is the reality: great communicators are great communicators, regardless of the contexts. So if you claim you struggle in one area more than the other, it is because you might not be focusing on the primary intention behind the context. Below are three critical attributes of influential speakers that will help reground you when you feel ineffective in any of those contexts. 

PRESENCE (One-on-One)

Present and presence have the same root. That’s not a coincidence. Staying present requires you to release your need to look good. This is mainly (but not exclusively) important in one-on-one conversations. It is easy to mask our distractions in a small group. When presenting, it is even easier to let our mind respond to all the stimuli it is receiving. It is always easier to hide.

However, our lack of presence is apparent when we are just speaking with ONE person. We jump at the opportunity to put in our two cents before the other person is finished talking. Instead of formulating your response to whatever is being said, allow yourself to clear your mind and embrace the power of pausing. Holding your tongue before you respond, even for just a moment, will allow you to really reflect on what the person is saying. This will also allow you to respond to what they are saying – not what you think they are saying. 

POWER (Small Group)

We all know of the communication breakdowns when someone takes their power too seriously. Yet, an equal number of communication breakdowns occur when someone doesn’t take their power seriously. There have been countless ideas and improvements not talked about and not made because there was someone who didn’t trust themselves to make an impact.

Power is required of all influential leaders and communicators, and especially (but not exclusively) important in small group communications. Owning power and speaking up for our ideas and thoughts can be vulnerable and intimidating; after all, if I say something in this group, won’t I be judged for it? 

Will I put you at ease (or at rest?) and tell you that YES, you will be judged for it. Sometimes harshly. But for every person who judges you, ten others will respect you for saying it and trust you in the future as an authentic and powerful leader. 

PERFORMANCE (Public Speaking)

I know a lot of people resist the word performance. Performance is not inauthenticity; it is an act of service. There are many times when I’m not feeling well – physically or emotionally – and I’m slotted to speak, teach, or consult. When I am feeling down, I reach into my emotional intelligence toolbag and do whatever I can to choose different energy so I can be present with my audience. This requires a certain level of performance. 

It is not “fake it ‘tll you make it.” I don’t believe in that concept. Instead, it is choosing to be uncomfortable so your audience does not have to be. That choice – whether apparent to an audience or not – is the tool that will propel you past most of your damaging speaking anxieties. 

There are times we need to focus to be present while we give a speech. 

Times when we need to perform our best for an audience of one. 

Times when we get to step into our power during a group meeting. 

These qualities are interchangeable and transferable no matter what the communication context. 

When we stop telling ourselves that we are only effective in one area, we will begin to see how effective we can be in all areas where messages are exchanged and impact is made.