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4 Public Speaking Lessons from the European Referendum

4 Public Speaking Lessons from the European Referendum

As we all know, last week the UK voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum.

From political leaders at home and abroad, singers, actors and sports personalities, it seems that just about everyone was ready to share their views on the matter in public. Given the significance of the decision and that fact that the majority of voters made their decision based on the myriad of contradictory speeches it is worth reflecting for a moment on what we can learn from those who presented their views to the public.

Here are 4 big public speaking lessons we can learn from the campaign on both sides

Lesson 1 – Craft a Message That Sticks

Anyone can present and idea or share information, albeit with varying levels of confidence, charm and success. Whether you are the Prime Minister of the UK or a parent representing to your PTA the one thing you need above all else is a clear and powerful message.

That message also has to be totally relevant to your audience; it has to be concise, easily understood and memorable.

Politics aside, which of the following messages would you tick as:

Clear and concise

Relevant

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Easily understood

Powerful

Memorable

LEAVE

  • The UK cannot control the number of people coming into the country while remaining in the EU
  • Leaving the EU would free up £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS
  • We need to take back control over sovereignty, democracy, trade deals and immigration

REMAIN

  • You will be worse off if we leave
  • The UK is stronger, safer and better in a reformed EU
  • We get to trade freely

Regardless of your nationality, political bias or whether you had a vote in the UK last week, which of those messages do you believe is more likely to ‘stick’ with you?

Lesson 2 – Nothing is More Potent than Passion

It’s all well and good having a clear and compelling message that is relevant to your audience and hard to challenge, but if you can’t communicate it with passion you may as well not bother.

As much as I respect David Cameron as a speaker, on this occasion it seemed to me that the one missing ingredient was his own personal passion for the need to remain. Many would argue that he appeared to be on ‘autopilot’ as he continually restated his view of the economic risks of Brexit.

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For all their eccentricity, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage on the other hand were vibrant, colourful and completely animated each time they took the platform to persuade their audience to leave.

Lesson 3 – Help your audience to see the future

I’ve never forgotten a profound pep talk that one of my very first bosses gave to me as I began to climb the ‘corporate ladder’ over 30 years ago. One day whilst discussing the ever increasingly important topic of motivation he said to me: “Maurice, the only thing you really need to know about motivation is this: the only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see the future and it’s your job as their leader to help them to see it.”

What has that got to do with public speaking and presenting?

Absolutely everything

Whether you are giving a quarterly update, selling widgets or calling for a historical vote, all your audience really wants from you is for you to help them to see, feel and understand the future.

In the EU referendum campaign here is how the respective speakers described the future to a nation:

LEAVE

“Just imagine that the EU had never been invented and the history of the last 60 years had been entirely different. It had been all about free trade and economic cooperation between our friends and partners in the European Union, with peace guaranteed by NATO, as indeed it has been.

“Where we take back control of £350 million per week, take back control of our borders.”

“We can see the sunlit meadows beyond. I believe we would be mad not to take this once in a lifetime chance to walk through that door because the truth is it is not we who have changed.”

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REMAIN

The central theme of the ‘remain’ campaigns argument was the economic risks of Brexit.

“Nothing is more important than the strength of our economy.

Upon it depends the jobs and livelihoods of our people, and also the strength and security of our nation.

If we stay, we know what we get – continued full access to a growing single market, including in energy, services and digital, together with the benefit of the huge trade deals in prospect between the EU and the United States and other large markets.”

Lesson 4 – Know your audience

Addressing the economic risks of leaving the European Union is of course critically important as much of our strength, security and success does depend on our economic stability and growth.

However, the gap between the richest and poorest in the UK has dramatically widened in the past decade and far more people are struggling financially than they are flourishing. The harsh reality of the financial climate that most people live in today was likely to ‘deafen’ voters to the risk of a further decline.

Given that for many it feels as though things couldn’t get much worse anyway it was perhaps easier to imagine the upside and benefits to voting to leave the EU.

It seems to me that the least wealthy amongst us who rely heavily and care passionately about services everyone uses and experience first-hand and the adverse financial impact of ever increasing immigration are issues likely to trigger greater concern.

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The ‘leave’ campaign’s empathy for so many of the British Public’s feelings of hopelessness enabled them to craft far more impactful speeches

The 4 Lessons

Whatever happens over the next few weeks and months it’s very clear to me that these are 4 very significant lessons we can take from this historic referendum. What I find even more interesting is that these aren’t new lessons; all the great speakers throughout history have taught us that:

  • Your message is absolutely critical and you must make it ‘stick’
  • Passion is beyond doubt the speakers greatest asset
  • ‘The only people who need to be motivated are those who can’t see the future’
  • If you don’t really know and understand your audience then you are likely to fail.

Is it all in the message?

Despite the value of these 4 lessons the one that stands out for me as a key one to consider which drove this campaign is the message.

Isn’t it interesting that since the results of the final vote were announced it has been alleged that a key element of the ‘Leave’ campaign’s message was a fallacy.

It’s since being suggested that it is unlikely that the £350m we would free up each week will be given to the NHS.

It has also been suggested that despite the power, relevance and clarity of the ‘leave’ campaigns message they don’t actually have a plan to see it through.

That means that the greatest lesson for public speakers in this historic campaign is that whilst it’s your message that counts above and beyond everything else, it doesn’t have to be completely true and you don’t even have to have a plan to make it happen.

That of course is where I would draw the line and insist that despite the success of the leave campaign whatever you speak on it must be true and you must have a clear plan of action.

Featured photo credit: © Pojoslaw | Dreamstime.com –

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)

Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. At times, I forgot that who I was wasn’t what I did. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can too.

Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll look at what a fear of failure is, where it comes from, and how to overcome it so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

What Is Fear of Failure

Fear causes you to avoid potentially harmful situations. Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

What causes fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failure exists:

  • Patterns from childhood – Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules.This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.
  • Perfectionism – Perfectionism is often at the root of fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.
  • Over-personalization – The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]
  • False self-confidence – People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

How the Fear of Failure Destroys Success

Unhealthy Organization Culture

Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable cock-ups and messes onto someone else. The rapid turnover as people rise high, then fall abruptly from grace. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

Miss out Valuable Opportunities

If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago. They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

High Achievers Become Losers

Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes makes it into a handicap. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major handicap.

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Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect your butt, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

The problems with ethical standards in major US corporations has, I believe, more to do with fear of failure among long-term high achievers than any criminal intent. Many of those guys at Enron and Arthur Andersen were supreme high-fliers, basking in the flattery of the media. Failure was an impossible prospect, worth doing just about anything to avoid.

Loss of Creativity

Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant. When you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the best and most creative solution.

The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Get used to it. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity too.

Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work and in life.

How to Conquer the Fear of Failure (A Step-By-Step Guide)

1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

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Write down where you think the fear comes from and try to understand it as an outsider.

If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

2. Re-Frame Beliefs About Your Goal

Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

3. Learn to Think Positively

In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

If Disney and Jobs believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

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It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.[9]

For example, when you start a new business, there’s bound to be a learning curve. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

6. Have a Backup Plan

It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

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7. Learn from Whatever Happens

Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

Ask yourself:

  • What did I learn?
  • How can I grow from this?
  • Did anything positive come from this situation?

Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

Final Thoughts

Together we’ve learned what fear of failure is, and how it can have a crippling effect on our ability to achieve. This fear often stems from childhood, perfectionism, ego and over-personalization, and a lack of confidence.

Luckily for us, there are plenty of ways to tackle this fear. We can start by figuring out where it comes from and re-framing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Failures can be blessings in disguise.

Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and goals. Don’t allow fear to stand in your way.

More About Conquering Fear

Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

Reference

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