Overthinking - The Enemy of Public Speaking

Overthinking can create any number of scenarios for us, in any situation, whether that is things such as ghosts, health, failure, or anything else we let our imagination wander onto. The same applies to speaking in public!

It is easily assumed that we get nervous and then fear and picture the worst, which then stops us from "taking the risk", but what if we actually consider it the other way round? We overthink, create all sorts of scenarios, and then get nervous as a result of that?

Below is the transcription of the video where our founder, Chris Dawes, talks about this in more detail.

overthinking causes nerves

Have you ever considered what may actually be the number one enemy to stop us from presenting or speaking in front of others a bit more often?

Well from our research and analysis, the biggest enemy appears to be overthinking!

My name is Chris Dawes. I'm the founder of Open Dawes Training, and we are trying to help people grow in confidence, willingness and skills to be able to stand up and speak in front of other people, whether that is in presentations, speeches, providing training, speaking up in meetings, to the camera, to a microphone, whatever it is, or even just having more conversations at the watercooler.

It doesn't matter where it is. But we want more people to let out their knowledge, skills, experiences, opinions, and passions. Let people hear them, let people grow from them, and let people recognize and appreciate you even more.

But people overthink whether it needs to be heard, whether people want to hear it, whether they are actually experts, what could go wrong, the list is endless. We overthink what may or may not happen, what may or may not go wrong. And whether people really want to hear it.

The reality is, there's no point second guessing as we will always, as humans, come up with the worst-case scenario! Put someone into a haunted house, whether it is or isn't, in the dead of night, and they will hear what they want (or don’t want) to hear, they will see what they want (or don’t want) to see. I could be leaning against a railing and convince myself that this railing’s going to fall, I will start feeling it fall!

So don't overthink what may or may not happen. So many times, people will be there thinking, “Wow, do you know what? People are going to laugh at me! People are going to disagree with me! People are going to dislike me! people are going to disagree with the information that I share with them! People are already going to know it! it's going to be irrelevant, it's going to be wrong. The list just goes on and on and on.

The reality is that the minute you go in with that negativity, either it will stop you from doing it or stop you from doing it enough times. Or it will just impact what you try to do when you're in there.

If you go in with a feeling is this boring? This is absolutely what I've trained loads of people in industries that okay, maybe it could fall into the ‘not overly glamorous’, ‘not overly exciting’. And they become convinced that the information they're about to share is boring.

Why? There is nothing that is boring, because it's important to some people, in some situations, it is important!

I did I worked with people that were GDPR experts. And some of you may already know what this is data protection. And it was important for these experts to go out and advise organizations on what they now needed to do to adhere to data protection laws now that it had been revamped.

Now, of course, it wasn't an exciting subject. BUT! If they went in just absolutely mundane... “Yeah, right. I've got to talk to you about this.” Well, the whole presentation is flat. Even if I don't say, “oh, yeah, this is boring”. But I go in and I'm just knowing in my head, yeah, this is not good. It's still going to come across as boring.

If I'm too nervous, because I'm thinking this might be wrong, or these people don't know that I'm going to have that negative attitude, or if I overthink it the other way and go “right, I've got to assert my authority, my confidence here”. And I go into gung-ho, stating “THESE ARE THE FACTS!”. And there's actually an expert in my audience, they could go “well, no, that's not true!” and be on the wrong foot from the start.

If I haven't gone in kind of gung ho and I've gone “right, from our experiences, this is what we have found” then experts are more likely to go “well actually, have you considered that from what we've done here, that is correct in the majority, but you also need to…” And we can reply, “Oh, okay, thank you very much. That's really useful to everybody here!” (and me because I'm going to add it to my presentation the next time...)

So don't overthink what you're saying, how you're saying it, whether people are going to like it, whether people are going to hate it, whether you're going to get that job or not get that job, get that sale or not get that sale! You are going in with the intention to share that information, you know that information, you've researched whatever you needed to research, you've built up this presentation, this speech, this training course, this information that you've got to share in that particular meeting.

You can then share it, present it, have fun with it, do whatever it is that's appropriate, and then see how it goes!

I do a big thing about there always being three variations of every presentation:

  • the one you intend to give,
  • the one you actually give,
  • and the one you wish you'd given.

It always happens! This is exactly how it's going to go, in my head. But things will change it, I'll forget bits, I do it in different orders, people will say things and it will take us on a different path, I'll have heard something on the radio on the way in that's a good addition to it. Right, I'm going to add that.

And I will then come out, and we're always hilarious after the moment and will suddenly go “ah, I should have said this”, “I could have said it that way”, “I could have replied with this”. We're always brilliant after the event. But what happens is that that becomes the one you intend to give next time. And it will still change slightly after that as you'll also come out and go “that was brilliant that just came out of my head, at the time don't know where that came from, but I’ve got to make sure I keep that as that was good.”

What that has allowed me to do is have that flexibility, the freedom of mind to go, “look, I don't know what's going to happen. I have not even got a script, I've got content saying I need to make sure I cover this, this, this and this. I then know that I'm going to cover that subject in some way, and how it's going to go. Let's see!

I do some days where I'm doing the same presentation four consecutive times with different audiences. And they'll all be just slightly different. But the core information, the core knowledge, is being shared in some way.

So just go with that! Step back, do not overthink, share that information however it comes across on that day, and be as positive as you possibly can be, in your personality.

Now my style happens to be that I like to have a laugh with it. That might not be yours, you might be motivational, you might be great at sharing, you might be educational and you naturally help people absorb it. Everybody's got their own personalities; quite emotional, quite, you know, able to connect as a person; whatever you is, that's what you're going to bring to it whilst sharing that information. And you might look at it afterwards and go “Do you know what I might change that next time”.

That next time, out of that audience of 10, 100, 1000 people, there may have been 10% that didn't like it, they didn't take to it. Whatever it happens to be. I don't ever really know, and you don't need to know those numbers inside out. You can't please everybody all of the time. So don't overthink the fact that you're trying to do it. Just get your knowledge together, share it, and share it as often as you can.

People do want to hear, and you owe it to yourself to be heard and to them to be able to grow from it. This is your expertise. This is your passion. You need people to know that you have those, that you know those things because it's what can help you get the new job, to get the promotion, to start your own business, to get the next sale, to get the bigger sale. Who knows what the example is!

Give yourself the chance by putting yourself out there but do not overthink. We can sit here now and come up with any number of terrible situations that might just happen. The likelihood is they won't. So, get out there and enjoy it. See what doors you can open as a result of having the confidence, willingness and skills to be able to speak in front of and with others.

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