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Come on – admit it. You love the unthreatening nature of your comfort zone. It’s warm, it’s safe. It’s like the cosy slipper of life experiences.
That’s the shadows. It’s the opposite of being in the spotlight. And it’s tempting, right?
But nothing really ever happens in the shadows. (When was the last time something incredible happened while you were sporting your slippers?)
Staying in the shadows might seem comfortable, but it’s not doing you any favours.
Slinking in the shadows
People who stay out of the spotlight think they’re hiding, but many draw more attention to themselves that way. The nature of many jobs means you’re eventually called on to speak and when you do, you look awkward, or bumble. Your anxiety ramps up and you’re not able to be yourself.
As if that wasn’t enough, staying in the shadows is affecting your audience’s experience of you. What you’re saying becomes harder to decipher, it might be boring and, as a result, your audience disengages. They’re making up their own minds about your competence and you’ve lost control of the narrative.
The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the shadow mindset to presenting gets reinforced. You think you hate presenting, and all signs are that you really do suck.
Duty-bound to step up and step out
Good presenting skills are a critical part of leadership, whatever your level. If you’re in a role that requires you to inform, motivate and inspire then you’re required to articulate messages, share ideas, support your team, and help people understand the strategy. You’ve got a responsibility to get dressed, don those power boots (or whatever footwear you fancy) and step into the spotlight.
Slaying the shadow-keepers
There are three things that keep you trapped in the shadows:
Getting these shadow keepers under control is the shortcut to your spotlight. The antithesis of these three things are what I call the ‘courage amplifiers’, which I also look at in my last article.
Start with knowing your stuff. Spend time on – and with – your content. Care about what you’re saying. If you can find a real need that you’re communicating, the focus shifts away from you and onto the people who can benefit from the information you’re sharing.
Next, prepare well. You may not always have hours – or days – to prep for each and every speaking encounter. However, an inescapable rule of thumb is that the quality of your presentation is always proportionate to the time you spend preparing.
Finally, own who you are. Give yourself permission to be yourself. Lean into the nerves if you need to – just be authentic. You’re not there to be evaluated by your audience; you’re there to give value to your audience.
Organisations are propelled forward by the communication and execution of great ideas, so if you have ideas of value, you need to speak up. You’ve got a duty to those ideas, to your organisation and its people – possibly even to the world – to ensure that your ideas get heard.
Stepping out of the shadows is the ultimate act of respect. But it can feel like a very big shift. So, try this: put yourself in a mindset of service. You’re there to deliver value to your audience and to do justice to your ideas. It’s not about you anymore – you’re simply a conduit between the ideas and the audience. That’s what it means to step into the spotlight.
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