Do you remember Columbo alias Peter Falk in his worn-out trench coat? I loved that show when I was a teenager. The other day, a female training participant borrowed a page from the style-guide of Columbo. The training was over. Everyone had left the modernist training room. She was the last one. And just when she was about to leave, she turned around and said something… eye opening.
The fear of failure, a lack of experience, misconceptions about how others will perceive you – stage fright has many triggers! You can tame the beast, but sometimes, suddenly, unexpected – the beast breaks free. Every year, I go back to my home village to give a carnival speech. 12 to 15 minutes, speaking in rhyme. Guess what, every year, 10 minutes before my performance you find me in the bar. Another beer, please! I’m nervous; I freak out, I think, Where’s my text? Where’s my damn text? Where’s my damn fucking text?
The difference between now and a decade ago is that, whatever fearful feelings try to sack me, I take the stage with poise, with passion, with energy. When it’s show time, it’s show time!
The reason behind has a name – ethos. Ethos forms the root of ethikos (ἠθικός), meaning moral, showing moral character. In terms of rhetoric and persuasion it means credibility. Is the speaker credible? Do I believe the speaker? Ethos is not God-given; you have to build it. One of the key drivers of ethos – and I talked about this numerous times here – is authority. We believe people more when they have authority.
Just like Columbo, this lady with shoulder long black hair and green eyes turned around and said, One more thing. She walked over to me and smiled. It was this victorious smile. You know what is funny, Florian? I always thought, as a speaker, I have to gain authority. Today, I know: I already have authority when I step on stage!
Eye opening! She’s so right! Psychologically, when you stand and speak in front of a seated audience, you already have all the authority in the world. What happens is that thanks to that beast stage fright, the vast majority of us are world champions in losing this authority within seconds.
It’s totally unnecessary, and yet we do things like these 10 ethos breaks.
Be more confident when you speak. Silence that screaming beast with your ethos, your poise, your authority.
When you do that, even Columbo would’ve had problems to catch you.