Here’s a tip from left field:
It’s OK (well, often) to make a fool of yourself in public.
Develop your ‘confidence muscle’ by stretching beyond your comfort zone.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable to listeners and they’ll more likely warm to you than tab your mistakes.
We can learn more from a fumble or stumble than from a goal.
I can vouch for this
Would you believe that I was a shy child who grew up in the Australian outback? Then I’d run a mile at the prospect of speaking in public. Now I enjoy and invite it.
How did that change?
Experience, maturity. Speaking foreign languages. My husband and I lived seven years in Europe, and for five of them we spoke French, Swedish and German. We learned Swedish on the job, from scratch, and German with an intensive month’s Anfänger course. Fear of making a fool of myself faded, knowing that most times I opened my mouth, mistakes came out. I just had to get on with living – and speaking. Many who witnessed my embarrassments became friends for life.
‘Your music is fine,’ a colleague said, ’but why not introduce the pieces with some words?’
‘Because we’d make mistakes!’ By then our Swedish was fluent but ungrammatical.
‘People forgive that, they warm to you.’
We spoke to our audiences and yes, people appreciated that we made an effort. So when we moved to Germany we spoke about our pieces in rudimentary vocabulary. Though some years later it was challenging to present a full day workshop auf Deutsch.
But on radio? We were pleased when Swedish Radio journalist Carl Friedner attended our Brahms concert. But our jaws dropped later when he unpacked his tape recorder as coffee brewed. His encouragement eased our nerves and we found rapport. This month –decades later – we again stayed with this longterm friend in Stockholm.
The mistakes bogey
Whether we perform through words or music, the fear of making mistakes in public can inhibit, even paralyse. But we learn more from our worst moments than we do from our best. If you struggle, check out my book Speak Out – Don’t Freak Out.
During a recent seven-week European tour, my half dozen words of Italian, Czech, Hungarian and Italian often became addled in my head, but people responded to my efforts. I’m fascinated by the process of learning and using new languages, and how they enable us to communicate, interact and understand. This was a theme of the paper I delivered in Turku, Finland at a conference titled ‘Participation, Integration, and Recognition’. In this I cited my grandfather’s migrant experience. Hear more.
In Finnish, you ask? All those umlauts! More on that next issue.
Turn your negatives into positives
Put any glitches behind you, and focus on your message and your listeners – who may forget mistakes quicker than you do.