If you’ve ever led or attended a meeting – live or virtual – you’ve probably experienced that brutal feeling of self-consciousness about everything, from your ideas to your voice, to your appearance.
How ironic that the moments where we are expected and meant to be the best and brightest versions of ourselves are also the moments that can make us feel and look the opposite. 75% of people have glossophobia, a fear of public speaking. Our discomfort in presenting stems from a myriad of elements at play: audience judgment, reputational stakes, the dread of messing up, the vulnerability inherent in speaking, being watched by people (particularly closely on camera), time pressure … the list goes on. If this incredibly common form of anxiety or angst around presenting resonates with you, keep reading.
Jordyn Benattar Menkes is a public speaking expert and executive coach with a background in law, business, and acting. Jordyn represented Canada at international speaking tournaments, worked at two top law firms, and co-starred alongside A-list talent in film and TV. All of these experiences were masterclasses in successful speaking.
Now, through Jordyn has a public speaking coaching practice at Speakwell, where she’s equipped hundreds of professionals with proven methods to step into their own as confident, compelling communicators. Jordyn shared a few strategies that you can implement immediately to sound and look as smart as you really are and to speak well (or at least better) in your role.
75% of people have glossophobia, a fear of public speaking. If this incredibly common form of anxiety or angst around presenting resonates with you, keep reading! Jordyn Benattar Menkes, Founder & President, Speakwell
What To Do (Bites)
Listen > Talk
We have two ears and one mouth because we are meant to listen twice as much as we talk. But humans enjoy talking more than listening – and when we do listen, we listen to reply instead of listening to truly understand. As soon as our counterpart starts talking, we immediately think of what we’ll say back. We fear lags in conversation, awkward silences, and being at a loss for words when it’s our turn. This approach is a recipe for lost potential in the quality of your response and in the overall conversation. Instead, actively listen. Your response will be significantly more insightful and intelligent than if you had pre-emptively determined your reply. If you need a moment to collect your thoughts, don’t be afraid to take it: “I want to reply thoughtfully, so please give me a moment to consider what you’ve shared.”
Structure Before You Speak
We tend to avoid silence at all costs, so sometimes we speak for the sake of speaking. You should *always* have a purpose for speaking and a structure that organizes your speaking points. I coach my clients on dozens of ways to structure impromptu speaking. The easiest one to remember is the rule of three: three points, three reasons, three ways, etc. Frame your ideas and replies with something like, “I’ll address what’s been said in three parts.” Creating and following a loose structure will stop you from rambling, reduce your filler words (which we use to fill gaps when we don’t know what we’re going to say next), and keep both you and your audience on track. The result is a crystal clear, organized and professionally delivered message.
End with a period.
Do you ever hear yourself on video and cringe at how you sound? Many times this is because we ‘uptalk’: we utter declarative sentences with rising intonation at the end, as if they are questions. Here’s an example: “Hi? My name’s Jordyn? I’m from Toronto?” Uptalk makes us sound uncertain or as though we seek the listener’s approval. It’s the biggest bruise to credibility. Replace the question mark with a period: “Hi. My name’s Jordyn. I’m from Toronto.” Now you sound like you know what you’re talking about.
When it’s possible, look good to feel good. With a full house and omnipresent stressors, sometimes making it to that online meeting is tough in and of itself. Next time you’re able to hop on, try swapping your hoodie for a blazer. Sure, sweats are comfy, but I promise this change will improve everything from your posture, to your focus, to your on-camera presence. Even if you aim to do this just once a week, that’s a win.
Watch out for filler words. Um, like, so, actually and any other words you overuse or say to fill gaps in your communication.
Record yourself and play it back. People don’t do this enough – if at all! Record a voice memo or video on your cell phone for 30 seconds. How do you look? How do you sound? You’ll then have a clearer idea of what you like, dislike and want to get better at.
Meet Jordyn Benattar Menkes Speakwell
I hope these small nuggets serve you well in your next meeting, networking opportunity, salary negotiation, presentation, pitch, or plain old family dinner table conversation. If you’re mindful about these tools, I guarantee you will notice a difference in your confidence and improve how people regard and respect you.
MY CHOICES. MY WISDOM.
A conversation with Jordyn.
What does your work do for you that you’d miss if you didn’t have it?
I get to train and empower people to show up as their best selves whenever they speak – which is all the time. There’s no better feeling than helping others find their confidence and thrive. I’m also extremely rewarded seeing the astonishing ripple effects that my programs have on other parts of my clients’ lives. Without Speakwell, I’d miss that.
As someone who coaches others in public speaking, what is one thing people should know about the craft?
People often assume you need to be outgoing, vivacious and charismatic to be a great public speaker. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Whether you’re a chatty extrovert or a reserved thinker who hates attention, public speaking is about being the best version of your authentic self. Through my programs, I help people connect with that optimal self, leverage it, and excel.
You walked away from a career in law and started your own business. What was the final push that made you do it?
I always wanted to! My itch to be an entrepreneur was what motivated me to combine my law degree with an MBA.
That move takes bravery, where does your bravery come from?
Thank you! It actually felt scarier for me to stay in law than to leave because I wasn’t sure that practicing forever would fully fulfill me in my career. I always wanted to run a business, specifically one that combines my public speaking expertise, acting background, legal mind and coaching experience. I thought, “We spend a third of our lives at work. I should be obsessed with what I do for a living. What if I never give this Speakwell thing a shot?” I felt that I owed it to myself.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve been given?
Equally as powerful as saying “yes” is saying “no”.