You’ve probably heard many jokes about people talking to themselves. For example, “You know you're a redneck if you buy two CB radios so you can talk to yourself.” An academic one, “At least when I talk to myself I’m talking to someone as intelligent as I am,” might amuse you as well. But there is a very serious side to talking to yourself.
“The most important words you will ever speak are the words you speak to yourself when you are by yourself.” I don’t know where I first found that statement, but I think it especially applies to us as speakers before we deliver our speeches.
When you have insecurity and anxiety before delivering your presentation, you may allow those feelings to influence your thoughts about your presentation. This is not likely to make you feel more confident! Have you ever had these thoughts before speaking: “This group does not want to hear what I have to say!” “Why didn’t I spend a little more time practicing?” “That joke I want to tell isn’t even funny.” “Why did I accept this speaking engagement—I’m not a speaker.” Those thoughts of self-doubt can make you even more anxious and insecure.
Don’t let yourself think those thoughts. Fill your mind with words of confidence. Sentences I find to be powerful positives are: “I have prepared well for this presentation.” “What I have to say will be helpful to this audience.” “We will have fun together with this presentation.” “I am qualified to talk on this subject.”
Prepare ahead for the scripts you plan to use to talk to yourself. In fact, to get in the habit, have a note card with these sentences or similar sentences with your presentation notes to remind you. Scripting these thoughts out will mechanically motivate you to get rid of the negative thoughts; you cannot think a positive and negative at the same time.
This habit of focusing on positive words to say to yourself will also help you in other parts of your lives. Some of you may remember the Transcendental Meditation craze of a few decades ago where you relaxed for 20 minutes by sitting in a quiet place and saying a mantra over and over. This idea follows that model, except you pick a mantra that specifically relates to an area you are trying to improve on. For example, pick certain words to remind you of what you should be doing and how you should be doing them. To help pay attention to the important things, use positive reminders. Some of my favorites are “Do it now,” “Don’t tell everything you know,” “Write it down,” “Eat a piece of fruit,” “Drink water instead of Pepsi.” Repeat these to yourself when needed and you will pay better attention.
So whether you are preparing for a presentation or developing better life habits, what you say to yourself does make a difference. When you are both the speaker and the audience, you can’t help but make an impact with your words.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication in the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University in the Cincinnati area. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at www.sboyd.com. He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.