Tag Archives: public speaking fear

If Goal Setting Doesn’t Work, Try This


At this time of year there are hundreds of blog posts and articles from all sorts of people telling you how to set and achieve your goals. And hundreds of other articles outlining all sorts of reasons why you’re unlikely to achieve your new year’s resolutions.

I don’t know about you, but around this time of year I really enjoy spending time reflecting on the year that has just come to a close and making plans for the coming year. I am fortunate to have a great friend and accountability partner and we have spent several hours together discussing our plans for 2017.

What is really interesting (and quite frustrating to her I’m sure) is how different we are when it comes to goal setting. She is very structured and likes to set achievable goals with achievable time frames. She is the type of person who will beat herself up if she doesn’t achieve a goal.

I, on the other hand, like to be more fluid with my goals. I’m not saying it always works but it’s a better approach for me as I’m not driven in the same way to achieve specific goals. And I also like the idea of not limiting what you think you can achieve, because in my experience you can usually achieve more than you think you can!

As an example, I have a vague goal of improving my fitness and energy levels in 2017 so on Boxing Day I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I went for a run today?” I don’t consider myself to be a runner and haven’t actually ‘run’ for many months; however, I figured I would just get out the door and see what happened. As I was running I felt okay and started to think “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just keep running for as long as I feel okay?”

So I kept running. At around 3.5kms I noticed my legs were starting to hurt but I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 4km today without stopping?” So I kept running. Once I reached 4km I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 5km without stopping?” (5km is the furthest I have ever run without stopping and I’ve only done that twice in my life – once last July when running with someone else and once in a ‘fun’ run more than 20 years ago!)

So I kept running. Once I got it into my head that it would be a great thing to do, I actually ran past my house and did an extra lap around the block to bring the total distance up to 5km. I completely surprised myself at my ability to achieve this. And that’s what I love about this way of setting goals. If I had have set off with a goal of running 5km that day, I doubt whether I would have set off in the first place!

So this year I’ve decided to set out my plans for the year as a series of questions. For example:

  • Wouldn’t it be great if my book was published this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I could learn to surf this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I was booked for more international speaking gigs this year? Yes it would!

I took a similar approach when I stopped drinking alcohol for a year. I didn’t proclaim that I was going to stop drinking alcohol for a year, I simply thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I stopped drinking alcohol for a while?” As the year progressed I changed the question several times until I was at about 11 months and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could say I had stopped for a year?” And I did. I’m going to try the same approach with junk food this year!

So if SMART goal setting doesn’t work for you (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound), why not try a different approach?  What do you want to achieve or focus on this year? If you’re experiencing any resistance to your goal setting I encourage you to consider turning it into a question. For example if you want to get over your fear of public speaking, consider starting with, “Wouldn’t it be great if could speak up at a meeting this week?” Then you can move on to, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could visit a public speaking group just to see what it’s like?” And once you’ve done that, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could try out a short speech in front of a small supportive audience?” Yes it would!

Obviously, you also have to make the decision to do it and take action, but I find it’s so much easier to just take that initial first step with a more vague question pondering the possibility rather than a hard and fast statement of the goal. For me, this way of working towards what I want to achieve is far more appealing than specific time bound goals, and the great thing is that I never beat myself up for not achieving something because I always seem to be moving forward. Of course, you might think of this as a cop out, but I find that by using this approach I often achieve more than I would have originally thought possible.

So, if you’re like my friend who prefers to set and achieve SMART goals and that works for you, go for it. But if you want to try an alternative in 2017, why not ask the question “Wouldn’t it be great if… (fill in the blank)?”

Here’s to a year of exciting possibilities!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_



How to Speak ‘Off The Cuff’

Image - Speaking off the cuffHow do you react when you’re asked to ‘say a few words’? Do you have the gift of the gab, the ability to speak articulately and comprehensively about any topic with little or no preparation? Or are you one of the many who become completely tongue tied; barely managing to ‘um’ and ‘err’ through a mumbled ramble of incoherent nonsense before shuffling away hoping the ground would open up and put you (and your audience) out of misery?

Being put on the spot to speak in public is something many people fear. Coming from a background as a performer, I’m sometimes more comfortable when I have a script that I’ve had time to learn and rehearse. However, whether you’re world famous or famous amongst your friends, family and colleagues, there are bound to be times when you will be called upon to speak about something with little or no preparation.

Perhaps the CEO stops you in the corridor and asks how your latest project is coming along. You could be at a friend’s birthday party when you are asked to say a few words about the guest of honour. Or you might be in a team meeting and asked what you think of the latest proposal. To be able to effectively articulate a clear and concise response will ensure that you come across as confident and credible. But how do you acquire the skill to do that?

That’s why this month I spoke with Renée Philippi for her tips on ‘speaking off the cuff’. After undertaking The Dale Carnegie Course, Renée honed her speaking skills at Toastmasters International. She has represented Scotland in the Toastmasters Table Topics Competition (speaking on a topic with no preparation) at the District Final for the UK and Ireland.

Thanks for speaking with me, Renée. What prompted you to improve your communication skills?

I was promoted to a supervisory position but had never had any training on how to manage people and when my team started complaining about me to my boss, he sent me away to The Dale Carnegie Course (Dale Carnegie is the author of How To Win Friends And Influence People) as what seemed to be a form of punishment. It ended up being one of the greatest gifts I could have received.

Why was that?

Working through the material in the course changed my life because I realised how critical interpersonal communications skills are on all levels of life. The better I’m able to convey my thoughts, requests, and queries to others, the more effective I am in my life and the more enjoyable interactions with other people become.

How long have you been a member of Toastmasters International and why did you join?

I’ve been a member for five years. I’m one of the minority who actually enjoys engaging an audience through public speaking and I wanted to learn how to continue to do that better. The synergy that’s created when I’m in flow and I know that I have fully engaged my audience is just amazing. I also feel that I have life lessons that I can share with others to help them and the more effective I am in communicating those the more I truly can be of benefit to others.

Tell me about the Table Topics element of Toastmasters…

The Table Topics segment of a club meeting is managed by a Table Topics Master who creates a series of topics on which members are asked to speak with no preparation time or forewarning. The topic is read out, the member’s name is announced, and they are required to stand up and speak for 1-2 minutes about the topic.

How did you end up becoming the Scottish Table Topics champion?

Because I’m brilliant at it! (laughing)

Excellent! Would you please share some of your brilliance to help others who are keen to improve their own impromptu speaking?

Of course. Here are my top tips:

Top Tip 1 – for speaking off the cuff in a one to one situation

The first thing to do is to think about why you are being asked about the topic. What interest does your questioner have in this? That will help you hone in on what your focal points should be.

Top Tip 2 – for speaking off the cuff when speaking to groups

To the degree possible, begin with the end in mind but don’t give it all away in the first instance; know where you want to get to but start from where you are and take your audience with you.

Top Tip 3 – don’t ever waste time

Do not focus on or even necessarily mention what you don’t know about the topic, especially if you have a limited amount of time in which to speak. You can only really give value to your audience by sharing with them what you do know.

Renée has provided some great tips above, and here are a few pointers I have picked up along my public speaking journey:

– Always take a moment before answering to gather and order your thoughts; despite the fact that while sometimes your initial reaction to a question is the right one, a short pause before answering is usually preferable to blurting out the first thing that comes to mind

– Share a short story where possible as it engages the audience

– Practice! The more often you take the opportunity to speak off the cuff, the better you will be at it when it really counts. Organisations like Toastmasters International provide a safe environment to develop your impromptu speaking skills or, if you’re near Edinburgh, come along to our monthly group coaching workshops.

What are your thoughts? How do you react when you’re asked to say a few words? What are your tips for articulating a clear and concise response? I’d love to hear your experience so please share in the comments section.

If you enjoyed this article, please leave your feedback in the comments section and don’t forget to share it with your friends and colleagues.

And if you’d like some hints and tips on improving your pitching, presenting and public speaking, follow me on Twitter @Grow_Potential or go to http://www.grow-your-potential.com