7 Steps to Overcoming Public Speaking Humiliation

 J0442332 The other day, I wrote the big reveal about public speaking.  Essentially, I wrote that fear of public speaking is not about public speaking.  It’s a fear of being humiliated.

I offered up 5 reasons why fear manifests itself.  As a speaker for the past 20 some odd years, I like to think that I've experienced it all. Maybe that's true. Until the next time, however, I guess we'll never know!

Today, I’d like to take those 5 “why we’re afraid” reasons and offer up 7 ways to cope.

 1.  In the past, you’ve been publically humiliated.  Welcome to life.We have a primordial reaction to being shunned publicly—perhaps because throughout our lives, it often meant being ostracized from our circle of friends and family. When it happens as a child, before we’ve learned to master critical thinking, the mark of humiliation can become permanent. But only if we allow it.

The famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" certainly is relevant in this instance.  No event defines who you are unless you allow it. You can choose to let an experience define your vulnerability;  choose to allow the past define your future—but that’s a choice. You don’t have to keep yourself safe and sound anymore.  You’re an adult and furthermore, you’re a paralegal or legal professional.  Translated: you can handle anything.

2.  You are self-focused not audience-focused. Instead of concentrating on giving beneficial lessons  to the audience,  we’re focused on getting approval – as if the audience were your mother.  This desperate reach for approval leads to a strong need to be perfect.  (Working with attorneys can really massage that need.)

Here’s the irony:  if we absolutely have to be perfect, we’re going to fail because—and this is not the first time you’ve heard this— being perfect is not ever going to happen.   At what point in your life do you accept that? How do you stop having to be perfect in front of an audience?  Change your purpose from “needing  to get” to “needing to give.”

In the New Model, you are involved with your audience in such a way that the audience, not you, becomes the star.  They feel it, crave it and like it.  When you are a public speaker, you are a teacher.  By creating that shift, a significant change occurs in how you view yourself. When you’re there to give (as teachers and paralegals are), your focus on self-importance vanishes.  Self-importance fuels fear. In this moment, you are not what’s important, it’s the audience.

Here’s the hardest lesson to accept:  You’re never going to please everyone. Someone in the room is bound to not like you. The question you need to answer is:  Is that okay with you?

If not, why not?

3.  Change the paradigm. Ask: what’s the worst that can happen if I forget something—or everything? Will the entire audience boo me?  Get up en masse and walk out of the room? Hardly. In your mind, run through what might happen.  Here's the reality: If  you forget what to say, the worst thing is you won’t be asked back to speak. And what’s the worst thing that could happen from that? Your career will not be over. You’ll have to  find a new group to speak to. The worst thing from that? You’ll discover that “the worst”…isn’t.

I first learned about paradigm changes years ago from my dad long before paradigm shifts were in vogue.  I was 19 years old and urgently needed a car.  So Dad and I went down to the local Chevrolet used car lot to pick out the vehicle that was to announce my social status to the world.  We chose a 1961 white Corvair with a rich red interior (most of you have not heard of this short-lived classic) for a great price of $400.  It was a small car with the motor in the trunk and the trunk where the motor should be.

“It’s perfect,” I sighed.  I drove away, excited, fully liberated, and loving every second of my newfound independence.  Driving down the street, I suddenly spotted a car right in front of me about to make an illegal left-hand turn.  I stepped on the brakes.  Nothing much happened except that my entire life flashed before me.  Two milliseconds later, I ran smack dab into the car in front of me.  The Corvair, with the trunk in the front, motor in the back, curled up, hiccupped and died right there in the middle of the street. 

After exchanging information with the other driver, I hiked over the nearest 7-11 and called my dad. (There were no cell phones in those days.)  Sobbing into the phone, I tried to grasp how the car I owned for a total of 16-½ minutes was now a mere memory.  Nothing could console me.

“Dad,” I wailed while looking at the crumpled mess that was now attracting attention from the entire neighborhood, “I wrecked the car.  I stepped on the brakes. It…didn’t stop! I rear-ended the car in front of me.”  There was a pause on the other end of the phone as my father absorbed this information.  Finally, he said, “Honey, it’s not your fault.  She was in your way.”

He taught me a valuable lesson:  Learn to look at things differently. 

4.  Finally—if you aren’t perfect? People love when speakers acknowledge their own mistakes. Not doing so, however, allows an awkwardness to hover in the room-not exactly good energy-management. So, make a joke about yourself and move on. Your audience will feel what you feel, so the more confidently and nonchalantly you handle an embarrassing moment, the more confident they will feel about you.

5. You didn’t prepare. Practicing is common sense. But too many speakers think their improvisation makes them a better speaker, and often they don’t bother to practice at all.  But even those who fear speaking don’t realize the incredible power of knowing theirmaterial cold. The greatest fear comes from not knowing the material; that your brain will go blank. So, rehearse! Practice looking in the mirror, on the way to work in the car, doing dishes— wherever you can. You will walk on stage full of complete confidence that will be communicated to the audience.

6. You’re mimicking old school speakers: The New Model method tends to mitigate fear because it is about creating energy in the room, being empowered and expressive. Let’s discuss some old ways of public speaking that can bring about fear:

a) Opening with your name and a “thank you for coming” is a bad move.  Most likely, you've already been introduced.  Opening by stating your name puts an emphasis on you, which adds to the fear you already have, and thanking the audience for coming puts you in the weaker position of gratefulness that the audience took time out of their busy schedules just to listen to little ole you. That alone can generate fear.

b) Drowning your audience in too much information while you think they are listening attentively. This approach only emphasizes you and your requirement to get approval which increases anxiety and the necessity to get it right.

c) Believing you must present yourself as a serious intellectual, particularly to an audience in the legal field.  The thought of “having to be” anything is going to jangle your nerves but feeling you must appear important or studious is going to cause you to claw at the windows in a frantic attempt to get out of there quickly. And finally,

d) Standing behind a podium or sitting behind a table – the worst move you can make. Any physical blockade symbolizes an emotional barrier between you and the audience. The more physical and emotional distance between you and your audience, the more nervous you are going to be. Get out from behind and get closer to your audience.

7. You’re unsure about the value of your message. Little else can make us as anxious as being unsure if others want to hear what we have to say. I’m going to be straight with you: make sure you’re talking about something they want to hear. Know your audience.  Do your factual research.  Make sure that you really are giving value. Too many speakers talk above or below their audiences; provide clichés and old or boring material.  They don’t help the audience to see how the material is valuable in their lives. If you think your message is content free, you may be right.

When you know that you’re giving tremendous assistance to your audiences, your mood will soar.  This goes back to the giving vs. getting issue: If you’ve got value to give but you’re still more focused on getting approval, fear will nail you. But giving great value because you can’t wait to give it? You’ll be unstoppable.

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"10 dumb things users do that can mess up their computers"

Check out these very helpful reminders from the information technology gurus at TechRepublic:

"We all do dumb things now and then, and computer users are no exception. Inadvertently pressing the wrong key combination or innocently clicking OK in the wrong dialog box can change important settings that alter a computer's behavior or even crash the system.

"Nervous newbies are often fearful that one wrong move might break the computer forever. Luckily, short of taking a sledge hammer to the box, the consequences aren't usually quite that dire. Even so, users often do create problems for their computers and for your network. Here's a description of common missteps you can share with your users to help them steer clear of preventable problems.

#1: Plug into the wall without surge protection

"Here's one that actually can physically destroy your computer equipment, as well as the data it holds. You may think your systems are in danger only during an electrical storm, but anything that interrupts the electrical circuit and then starts the current back again can fry your components. Something as simple as someone turning on an appliance that's plugged into the same circuit (especially a high voltage one such as a hair dryer, electric heater, or air conditioner) can cause a surge, or a surge may be caused by a tree limb touching a power line. If you have a power outage, you may experience a surge when the electricity comes back on.


#6: Open all attachments

"Some folks just can't help themselves: Getting an e-mail message with an attachment is like getting an unexpected gift. You just have to peek inside to see what it is. But just as that package left on your doorstep could contain a bomb, that file attached to your mail message could contain code that will delete your documents or system folder or send viruses to everyone in your address book."

Optimize Information Management Operations with Interwoven

Good old index cards are surely not of much use for law firms or legal departments with thosands & thousands of files. Read how Frost Brown Todd upgraded to Interwoven:

"...Frost Brown Todd LLC, an AMLAW 200 law firm, has adopted Interwoven Records Manager to enable comprehensive information management.

"Combined with Interwoven WorkSite, the industry-leading document management solution, Interwoven Records Manager enables law firms to optimize their file room operations and bring together paper and electronic documents and e-mail under a uniform information retention policy. The solution is seamlessly integrated into the user's working practices, allowing professionals to participate and engage in the records process without sacrificing productivity.

"Frost Brown Todd (FBT) was formed through the 2000 merger of two premier regional law firms, a union that brought consistent rankings in The National Law Journal's NLJ 250 and the AmLaw 200 -- as well as introducing new information management challenges. In 2005, with its user population reaching 900 attorneys, paralegals, and staff, the firm grew concerned about its ability to effectively manage the documents in its possession.

"'Post merger our records management challenges were steep. We were reliant on a series of index cards, access databases and outside vendor databases for finding information. Our file rooms were spread across multiple offices and floors, which made it very challenging to track our files. Each site was handling records differently. Our need for space and better organization led us to search for a long term solution for managing both paper and electronic records,' said Paul Bromwell, CIO at Frost Brown Todd."

"PowerPoint 2007 Takes On the Fear Factor"

Here's where presentation-savvy paralegals [PPT] can save the day (or at least the PowerPoint slides). Still, it's good to hear that "Microsoft Corp.'s upgraded presentation tool adds user-friendliness to increased visual interest."

"The very word 'PowerPoint' instills grim fear in the hearts of would-be speakers and dread lethargy in the minds of would-be listeners. No other software application can boast such ominous power over sophisticated professionals.

"I've personally witnessed scores of skilled attorneys desperately plead for help in using Microsoft PowerPoint to express their stilted, creative side; and conversely, I've been in the company of many audiences that collectively cringe at the sight of another text-laden, bullet-pointed slide. (The FutureLawyer also feels the "pain of PowerPoint" eloquently illustrated by comedian Don McMillan).

"While the solution to many of these issues requires an organic acumen of presentation techniques and psychology (Dennis Kennedy and Cliff Atkinson's book are great places to start), the Microsoft Office 2007 team recognized that some adjustments had to be made to PowerPoint. Team members on the PowerPoint & OfficeArt Team Blog lamented the fact that 'the vast majority of users fail to create [stunning] documents [and presentations]' and vowed to make it easier to design visually effective presentations in PowerPoint 2007. That apparently was one impetus behind the development of Office Themes."

Author Brett Burney writes a monthly legal technology column for LLRX.com and contributes to ALM's Law.com Legal Technology section and Law Technology News magazine.

Using Technology (& a paralegal!) to Cut Legal Costs

Interesting profile of Mark Chandler, senior VP, general counsel, & secretary for Cisco Systems Inc. This technology company (based in San Jose, CA), produces Internet protocol-based networking services:

"Chandler is keenly focused on applying technology, some developed by Cisco and some that it has purchased, to lower in-house legal costs on repetitive but crucial work. 'If you are dealing with a compliance matter that will affect how the company is perceived, you have to get it perfect, but other times very good is good enough,' he said. 'There are areas where you want to make sure you are doing the best you can, but you also want to be very efficient at the way you do it.'


"Outside counsel: TurboTax can replace the tax preparer and Travelocity allows anyone with a computer to become his or her own travel agent. The same forces are engulfing the legal profession. 'Fundamentally, service businesses like law are not dissimilar from any other industry,' Chandler said.

"For example, Fenwick & West of Mountain View, Calif., which does nearly all of Cisco's corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions work, notified Chandler last year that its hourly rates were going up. He replied that he planned to pay Fenwick 5 percent less in 2007 than he had the year before.

"'To do that, I wanted them to figure out what was the 10 percent of their work that was the least value-added,' Chandler said. 'We found they had lawyers billing us $400 to $500 an hour doing fairly routine work filling out forms associated with some of our acquisitions.'

"Chandler and Fenwick came to an agreement. Cisco is adding a paralegal to fill out the forms and will save $400,000, but it is reducing its payments to Fenwick by just $250,000."

"Exterro Gets E-Discovery Down to Business"

Quite readable article about new litigation software -- "centralized management of litigation lifecycles" -- with helpful "show & tell" screenshots:

"Exterro isn't the first software vendor to apply a business-process-management approach to the legal discovery process, but with the launch of its flagship product Fusion, it is breaking new ground with a solution that combines BPM with collaboration capabilities and centralized management in an integrated environment.

"Aimed at law firms and corporate legal departments, Exterro's newly unveiled Fusion is essentially a portal for controlling the discovery process. However, Exterro's chairman and CEO, Bobby Balachandran, prefers to call it a litigation-support-management platform, from which his customers can monitor progress, track costs, set and manage schedules, and evaluate vendor performance.

"'During complex litigation, negotiations or time-intensive governmental investigations, the process of managing legal teams needs some automation, otherwise it all just gets away from them,' Balachandran says. 'We're trying to bring reliable management control and predictability to a process that is typically loaded with surprises and unexpected costs.'"

BTW, there's currently an open position for Litigation Support Consultant (scroll down; position is in Chicago or Portland with flexible work hours!).

"Can Data Have a Life After a Death?"

Of course! Just be sure to utilize some basic, but smart, computer management skills:

"Everyone who has worked with a computer, even before the arrival of the Internet, knows the sickening feeling of loss. Without warning, hours of your work suddenly vanish from the screen. You hope (and pray) that perhaps it's been saved in a backup or temp file -- but often it's not. As your internal soundtrack turns up the volume on Don Henley and Glenn Frey, you realize that your carefully crafted project is 'already gone' -- and that it's not the time for a victory song. Instead, you will have to painstakingly recreate the work you had already done -- but didn't get a chance to (or even forgot to) save before the crash signaled by the apparently ubiquitous 'blue screen of death.'

"Fortunately, this problem is an easy one to fix -- before the fact. Periodic automatic save features can be turned on in many programs, such as Word, and 'Control S' has become an automatic part of typing for many people. On a systemwide basis, network administrators can generate minute-by-minute backups -- many thanks to David, Steve and the Help Desk at my firm, because their efforts have often saved me during computer or system crashes and blackouts."

Author Stanley P. Jaskiewicz, a business lawyer at the Philadelphia law firm of Spector Gadon & Rosen P.C., helps clients solve e-commerce, corporate contract and technology-law problems, and is a member of e-Commerce Law & Strategy's Board of Editors. Jaskiewicz thanks his legal assistant, Frank Manzano, for his research support for this article.

"Is Software the Key to Streamlining HR?"

This Legal Technology article describes the HR challenges in law firms & how various software options makes them manageable. [2nd paragraph links from original text]:

"Managing human resources is one of the most labor-intensive processes at a law firm. Keeping track of payroll, benefits, leave time and lots of other information is time-consuming and costly. Fortunately, there is plenty of software -- both commercial and homegrown --that can help firms automate many HR functions. Firms that are using these tools are seeing benefits, such as cost savings and increased efficiency.


"Bingham McCutchen, with nine U.S. offices and three overseas, has 950 attorneys and 1,150 executives and support staff. In the mid-1990s, the firm began using an HR tracking and analysis system called HRVantage, from Spectrum Human Resource Systems Corp.. The system helps the firm to track and report on HR-related tasks including new-hire processing, employee status, benefits enrollments, employee history and performance/salary reviews."

"Ten Must-Have Apps for the Solo Practitioner"

More helpful info from Rick Georges, author of the FutureLawyer blog [links below from original post]:

"This month I'm focusing on application software. Although there are different software preferences for every lawyer, I'm sticking to Windows, since most lawyers use it. As with last month's article, 'Ten Must-Have Web Sites for Solo Practitioners,' picking the best of anything is difficult, so I'll focus on what I use every day in my practice. I'm sure I'll hear from you about software you use, that I missed.


"As with last month's article [Ten Must-Have Web Sites for Solo Practitioners], there are many other software applications that I could have mentioned, as I'm certain that there are a few that you might suggest. However, I use every application in this column at least once each day of my life, and my law practice would be lost without them. If you have an essential application that is important to your law practice, send me an e-mail and let me know. Now, go out and use computer software to improve your life and your law practice."

Definitely liked the inside scoop of how this lawyer daily uses technology. What would your list of "top apps" look like? Is your own Treo "NEVER far from [your] cold hands"?

Five Strategies Key to Reducing Litigation Costs

Yay! Having several methods for cutting the costs of litigation is good news indeed:

"Smoking-gun documents and emails have been at the heart of the world's best known corporate legal battles, but the risks of information in litigation have suddenly grown with new U.S. Federal guidelines for e-discovery. How can companies get a handle on the exploding volume of online content to better address the costs and risks of litigation? Open Text Corporation (NASDAQ: OTEX, TSX: OTC), a leading provider of software that helps companies manage their growing stores of emails and documents, today released a list of five key technology strategies for litigation and e-discovery readiness that can help companies be as prepared in the courtroom as in the boardroom.


"Open Text Executive Vice President Bill Forquer [scroll down for bio] sees some advantages in the new rules. 'Certainly, there are new risks and new challenges but the amendments add clarity. They create a sense of urgency and a mandate for companies to have good information management practices in their organizations.'


"According to Forquer, these five key strategies can make all the difference:

"Define defensible policies: Map the governing regulations and internal requirements to the process of identifying what email or document constitutes a record. What is and isn't a record? How long should a record be kept or how long must it be kept? Does it need to be stored on a specific media? Kept in a specific location? Do your policies take into account metadata associated with records?"

Above is just one of the five outlined....