One of the major obstacles to increasing our skills in presenting and public speaking is time. It’s a reality, we are asked to do more and more presentations leaving us less and less time to prepare them. Especially given that public speaking is generally not the core activity of our work. But what impedes our progress the most is less about the time allotted to us than it is about the time that we give ourselves. Because ultimately when we are passionate about a project, supported by a great idea, whether it’s early in the morning or late in the afternoon, we’ll always find a moment to devote ourselves to it.
Motivation is an extraordinary engine in terms of commitment, attention and desire. But we must recognize that the time it takes to create a presentation often gives rise to procrastination rather than an irrepressible desire to get to it. As we have mentioned before, this bad habit of procrastinating is less about lethargy or boredom than it is about stress related to the exercise of public speaking. So, how to get motivated? How to stop waiting for the night before the event to finally get down to work? Is it possible to enjoy the task when for the majority of us it’s already difficult to fight off the fear of doing badly, of being challenged or worse, being ridiculed?
First we must realize that it is not because we do things at the last minute that we necessarily do them poorly. And we could consider that waiting until the last moment, when we have no choice, is a perfectly acceptable technique. In this manner we come to idealize that “last minute” stress, when we’re totally cornered, and our brains finally go into solution mode and suddenly become attentive, concentrated and creative. The first downside of this modus operandi is that it takes us into a vicious circle from which the only escape is failure: the day where you find yourself too stressed to be effective, or without enough time and resources to be ready on time. The second is that stress doesn’t provide solutions in and of itself; it is only a trigger, an alarm signal, which, in most cases, either motivates us or causes us to panic.
By waiting until the last minute, we are motivated only by the result leaving us no room to enjoy the task. Worse, we’re stuck with the feeling that the exercise is unpleasant because we associate it with the stress we feel. In the field of behavioral psychology there are two types of motivation: result based, as we have seen, and the action itself. Indeed, the constant base of our personalities is characterized by things we take pleasure in doing totally irrespective of the result we can achieve. We do it so naturally that it is sometimes difficult to identify. Some like to move, others like to contemplate, seduce, help others, tidy up, analyze or compete, and these things mobilize us without stress. And better yet, these fundamental elements of our characters replenish us with energy, even when we’re tired.
The difficulty in terms of public speaking, is that one of the major sources of pleasure lies in what is also the most stressful: the audience. Speaking, or being entrusted with the task, means accepting the idea that we will change something, that our presentation may change what the audience feels, thinks or does. Here is where the real adventure in public speaking is, both on a strategic and emotional level. Motivation is essential because it is our commitment that will truly be the motor of persuasion and will distinguish in the end, a useless presentation from a seminal speech.