After the third attempt by my 6 year old to ride her new bicycle, she predicted that by age 8 she’d be able to ride on her own without help. She kept practicing almost every day. Three days later I was able to release my hold on the saddle in little bits at a time, still running with her. After a particularly good round the next day, I told her that for almost 10 seconds she’d been riding with no support from me. She didn’t believe me, but the next day she was riding on her own.
She’s now 8. She “cracked it” in a week rather than 2 years, much qucker than her initial estimatation. These days she often rides at the BMX track with her friend with enormous confidence and enjoyment, like most children, I guess. Funny, isn’t it? We seem to enjoy doing things we do well. Yet, the human condition is such that when we fail to do something well the first time our confidence can plummet. We often need some encouragement to try again, which we may do with caution. Until we discover that practice and experience are the best skill and confidence builders. And it takes just a few wins in succession to rapidly boost confidence.
It took me years of self doubting before I had the courage to speak in public. But the more I did, the more confident I became. And it didn’t take to long. The more I learned about the craft of public speaking the more skilled I became. Until I realised that I’d done enough between 2003 and 2007 to qualify for the Certified Speaking Professional designation. Truth is, there are many people with loads of public speaking potential. But they’ll never really know how much until they do something about it. And that’s why I teach people how to present with confidence – because I know we all have it in us, we just need to obey the rules.
Having personally delivered over 300 paid speeches and over 650 training programmes, many of them on the topic of presentation skills, I’ve also seen speakers who have delivered thousands of speeches, and the experience shows. It’s a mouth watering experience for me. In Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book, Outliers, he mentions research showing that 10,000 hours of practice is the magic figure.
It seems that our brains need to build up evidence of success in order to create a strong foundation to move up a level. Once something becomes easy we want to try something a bit more difficult until, before we know it we’ve developed a new skill. And all of us have done this many times – that’s how we all obtained the basket of skills we have.
So, don’t ever say you can’t do something unless you have learned how to do it properly and then put in the hours required to get good at it. The truth is you can master anything provided you’re prepared to “pay the price”. And there is no substitute for learning, application and practice to build the confidence that spurs you on towards excellence
Of course we all know this, really. It’s just that for some peculiar reason we seem to forget this conventional wisdom when it comes to our own ability to deliver presentations.
Paul du Toit, author, certified speaking professional and presentation skills expert.