I'm thrilled about the opportunity to visit with Frank S. Adams, the Godfather of Practical Reasoning. This is the first of a 3 part series of the interview with Frank.
Frank is a Communications Coach and Mentor, Certified Career Coach, International Trainer, Speaker and Published Author. Frank is the foremost authority on the fear of public speaking.
Road Map: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. It's a pleasure to have you sharing with the readers.
Road Map: Frank, you are quick to point out that “Effective Communications is the KEY to Success in business, at home and in the community.” Why are you so passionate about the topic?
Frank S. Adamo: We all can communicate, but are we effective? One of my students was hired by a utility company as an electrician's apprentice. While attending my classes, he applied for an electrian's position. After he got the position, he went back to the interviewer and asked him why he was hired. The interviewer said that, out of about 3 dozen other candidates, he was the only one who really listened to the questions, answered them appropriately, and was concise and to the point when answering the questions.
To paraphrase Ed Tate, the Toastmasters 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking, in one of his speeches, he said, violence is not the answer. We must use our mind and take the time to think. If I may add, once you take time to think, we need to communicate these thoughts effectively.
I've been a Rotarian since 1985 and the purpose of Rotary International is world peace and understanding. How can we really understand without effective communications? How can we have world peace without effective communications? We can't. It's the same with our individual lives.
If our child (in my case, my grandchild) comes home with 2 A's, 2 B's and a D, what is our focus? "Why did you get a D in science?" Instead, we might want to say something like, "Wow, you did so well in English, Social Science, Reading and an A in Math? Fantastic." Then after a moment or two, you might want to add "I see you got a D in Health. Is there something you don't understand? How can we help?"
Regardless of your political affiliation, President Reagan, the Communicator, won the re-election by a landslide and he was able to pass through many of his policies even though there was an opposing Congress. Even those who respect and believe in George W. Bush have to admit that he doesn't have the best communications skills. Even he will admit to that.
I wonder how the world would perceive Pres. George W. Bush if he had the communication skills of Ronald Reagan? Effective communications, particularly in the age of instantaneous communication, is essential for success in your life.
RM: Some people believe they can’t overcome the fear of speaking in front of groups. What are some steps they can take to overcome their presentation fears?
FA: What I tell my students when I teach my class on Transcending your Presentation Fears, if I can be here teaching you, then anyone can transcend their fear. I believe I'm the foremost expert on the fear of public speaking because I had that fear, not for years, but for decades.
1. I begin by telling my students we are born with only two fears: the fear of noise and the fear of heights (or falling). All others are learned. Therefore, the fear of presenting can be unlearned.
I generally talk about presentation fears rather than the fear of public speaking because most people have to, at one time or another, give a presentation, a toast at a wedding, an eulogy at a funeral, etc. They are not particularly interested in becoming "public speakers." but they do want to be comfortable in being in front of an audience.
2. Fear is generally based on the unknown. I tell my students to consider living in a small village 1,500 years ago. It's a balmy, bright day around noontime. Then, it begins to get darker and darker. The entire village flock together in fear as the villagers look up and see the sun disappearing. In these modern times, millions again flock together -- not in fear -- but to see a rare solar eclipse. People today understand this phenomenon. They don't have a fear of an eclipse.
Public speaking or giving presentations is an unknown for many people. That's when I recommend my students to join Toastmasters because that's where they will begin to understand how to present in front of an audience in a sate and encouraging environment.
3. Fear is POSITIVE. Without fear, our primitive ancestors would have died and the human race would have been extinct eons ago. Thus, we should embrace the ability to feel fear.
4. If fearful, the body physically changes. The symptoms we have are a natural reaction to the fear. For example, we feel nauseated because the digestive system shuts down. Thus, if you are a bit fearful, don't eat until after your presentation. We get the shaky hands and knocking knees, the quivering voice, and a fast heartbeat because our body is rushing oxygen and energy (in the form of glucose) to our muscles to prepare to fight or flight from danger. Thus, shake your hands, arms, and legs (or do some other form of exercise) before you present. This will release some of the built up energy and relax you. Please shake your arms and legs, etc. off stage. That might really "frighten your audience ."
5. Join Toastmasters. When we began to walk as babies, we didn't immediately get up and began to walk. No! We got up and fell, got up and stumbled, over and over and over again. But through continual trying and determination, we began to walk, to the pleasure of our parents -- at least until we learn to climb on everything and running out of the house into mischief. The same with speaking in public and doing presentations. It will take time, but it will happen, if you have a safe place to practice and stumble. Toastmasters is the place to practice and learn how not to stumble the next time.
Coming next on Wednesday --more of Frank's thoughts on communicating>> part 2.