Last night, at a presentation I gave on speaking your story, someone muttered “Yeah … public speaking – the greatest fear of all!” We all laughed and empathised, and then shared our stories – speaking in public but not “public speaking.”
This morning on the way to the supermarket, I heard “Highway to the Danger Zone” remembering the thrill of the music, and the movie and the Tom Cruise persona …
… and then thought of that comment last night – facing public speaking for some people is like walking into a danger zone – a combat zone – a place where they feel they may have to fight to survive, and maybe it would be better to turn and run – right now!!
So let’s get our Tom Cruise on.
Before this goes any further, let me say I don’t know anything about Tom Cruise as a person beyond what the gossip columns tell me. I have never (well almost never) seen him in a movie except as a sexy, strong, cocky individual, with an appealing soft side. And I am well aware that there are all sorts of movie techniques that enhance that – not least pumping music like Kenny Loggins’. And here’s an audio to remind you just what that feels like.
What was it about Tom Cruise? Ah yes “sexy, strong, cocky, with an appealing soft side”!!
He was good and he knew it. Yes he loved speed, but he was also a good pilot. Want to get your Tom Cruise on? Be good, get good. Read this blog. Read other blogs. Get coaching. Watch other speakers and TED talks. Practise. Capture the moments when you know you are good, when you are in flow speaking, when you feel like a rock star. Rinse and repeat and find out ways to increase those moments. But most importantly, remember what they felt like and take that feeling with you, whenever you speak. That is getting your Tom Cruise on.
If I were to define “cocky” I would think it would involve the word “confidence”, and something to do with the body language of confidence. Looking like you are confident, moving like you are confident, talking like you are confident, works in two ways. Firstly it makes you feel confident. Those who work with laughter know that it is therapeutic. Laughing when you feel least like laughing lifts a mood and stimulates all sorts of therapeutic physiological changes. Acting “cocky” when you are feeling least confident changes your attitude and stimulates all sorts of therapeutic changes in your behaviour and especially in your presentation style. The second way that acting as if we are confident works is that people see confidence. In The Tom Cruise movie persona, this is sexy, attractive. We want to feel that way too. In our speaking situations, it inspires trust in the audience. They see a person who is confident in their knowledge, confident that they can communicate with this audience, and confident enough to be authentic throughout the experience. Do I suggest you be cocky? Not if it’s not your style. But do “Get your Tom Cruise on” if it means behaving with confidence.
Another part of the “cocky” definition would have to be the aspect of fun. Here is a person enjoying what they are doing. The Top Gun fliers enjoyed the need for speed. When the feeling of fear, of danger, appears as it does for all speakers, get your Tom Cruise on. The adrenalin is running because you are taking on a challenge. It’s good. It’s fun. You will achieve. You will also learn. Challenge is where we find flow. Challenge is also where the greatest learning happens. Turn the fear of fear into excitement at doing something that is going to feel so good (and if it doesn’t there will be fabulous lessons to learn. Unlike the pilots you are not facing complete obliteration!)
Before I wrote this article, I went to Youtube and watched a version of “Highway to the Danger Zone” that features clips of the movie. I didn’t watch it all the way through. You can watch it here if you want.
What I did notice, though, was the number of times Tom Cruise is featured with other people. Though it feels like we speak alone when we are on a stage or in front of an audience, we rarely are. “Cocky” needs an audience to enjoy it, to share the fun of it. There will be moments when you can share the “rock star” in-flow speaking moments with your audience. Watch a comedian as he delivers a punch line. Watch Brene Brown as she makes a humourous point. There is a connection with the audience that asks “See what I did there?” – not always, but enough to enable you to take your audience into the experience with you. You are not alone. Nor are you alone as a speaker who is learning to be a Tom Cruise. There are competitors, if you are the competitive type. There are close friends and allies. All are having their successes and failures. You can learn from them. You can support them. They can support you. Some of the failures will be absolutely devastating. But those failures, as I wrote before, are often the greatest learning opportunities, and also the greatest opportunities to bond tightly with colleagues and friends.
And that is one of the places where the “appealing soft side” of the Tom Cruise persona comes in.
Do I want you, or me, for that matter to be “sexy, strong, cocky, with an appealing soft side”? Not if that’s not you already. It’s not me. We are each unique, with our own unique story to tell and to share. But if Getting Your Tom Cruise On can change your attitude as you go into the Danger Zone of public speaking, makes you a superstar speaker, or even just the very best you that you can be right there and then, I will be applauding wildly as the lights dim and you leave the stage.
Image source: http://bit.ly/1npG58c