“Mom, I think I’m ready to communicate with you now”…                                                                                    Haley Joel Osment as Cole in The Sixth Sense

I recently rewatched “The Sixth Sense”, M. Night Shyamalan’s film about dead people.  Or is it?  Eerily moving, well-acted and beautifully shot in revealing interior sets and on the streets of Philadelphia, this perfectly constructed, 1997 movie is also about communication based on confidence, truth and trust.

 Early in the film, we learn that Cole, Osment’s character, routinely hears voices and sees visions of departed souls. His terror is not unlike what some of my clients experience when anticipating and then giving a speech.  I know it may sound funny, but I’m actually not kidding. Remember Jerry Seinfeld’s comment about speaking at a funeral?  He said most people have such fear of public speaking, that when it comes to giving a eulogy, many would actually prefer to “be in the box”. 

So, what can you do to reduce your fear and increase your effectiveness when speaking?

The good news is you can begin today to take 4 small steps to become more confident and competent as a speaker.

Find Your Voice

Practice helps immeasurably.  Begin with situations that are only moderately uncomfortable and commit to speaking up.  Opportunities to practice can range from something as simple as yelling down the block to say hello to a friend, to chatting with a colleague at a social or networking event, to offering comments, questions or ideas during a class or a meeting at work.  If you commit to speaking up at different events, you will soon become more comfortable with speaking in other situations, too.  Why not begin today?

Construct Your Message

     Gear your comments or speech to the needs of your audience. A powerful method for earning audience trust and creating interest in what you have to say is learning about your audience and designing a message that will appeal to their interests and needs.  Learning about what “makes them tick” or motivates them is not just useful.  It is essential.  For example: What will make them more successful at work, in life?   And, how can you frame your message in such a way that is informative, entertaining and/or inspiring 

     Create a Context

     Set the scene.  Give any history or information that is essential to generate understanding of your message. 

Next, create a receptive mood for what you have to say.  This means preparing your audience to hear your message.  Cole began by stating clearly that he was now ready to communicate.  That is how he created “context”.  He set the scene by signaling – this is a very important talk I am initiating with you right now!  This piqued his mom’s  interest and caused her to perk up and listen intently.

Speak your truth

He still had a challenge to overcome.  His credibility needed to be heightened.  Only after he increased his credibility, was he able to speak his truth and be heard.

Cole had to go through an odyssey of character development including psychic pain, healing, and finally insight, in order to finally be able to speak up – but, hey, that’s what makes for a great movie.  I hope your experiences will never be as painful or scary as Cole’s. You will most likely experience discomfort or even fear, but, the more you practice, you will begin to experience greater competence, confidence and speak powerfully!