A couple of weeks ago, I read with interest the findings of Mush – a social network for mothers. The data Mush gathered said that their members based in London are twice as likely to describe themselves as shy compared to elsewhere in the UK. This got me thinking about perceptions of shyness, the impact this feeling has on parents returning to work and how these emotions can be paralleled in the world of speaking.
It always amazes me when I meet a great speaker and find them to be completely different off stage to the person who just delivered a barnstorming speech to several hundred people. This ability to wear different personalities dependent on the situation is something that the best speakers will naturally master. This lesson is immensely both for valuable for personal and professional lives.
Recent research carried out by Speakers Corner also uncovered interesting insights into levels of shyness. Our survey of 2,000 people revealed that 28 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women would feel confident enough to speak in front of 100 people at the last minute.
Just as Mush identified how mothers in London felt shy as were often forced to spend their maternity leave in “unfamiliar areas where they knew nobody” and they had to “make new friends again”, a similar pattern can be identified in the speaking world, as often leaders of companies are thrown into an entirely unknown situation, when they are asked to deliver a keynote. It is only natural that the emotion of shyness should arise, but as speakers adopt the outwardly dynamic persona to overcome this, as they know they have a valuable offering to bring to the table, parents returning to work can do the same.
In the workplace, the ability to project the right image and personality to suit the setting and the people within it is the basis for being successful in business. This is why the findings of Mush were of such interest. Returning to work as a parent may mean your drivers might have changed and you may require different attributes from your company. However, you offer a new perspective which will ultimately aid any business in their quest for diversity of thought. But, as per the study, too often new parents go back into the job market with reticence and reluctance or ‘shyness’ which is unfounded.
Building that second skin where the outward perception is that of a confident go-getter is critical to business success, despite the fact it might be the antithesis of what you could be feeling inside. Being that star on stage who delivers a performance to an audience who are wowed by the energy and presence of that speaker is ideally what we all strive to deliver. Whether the audience is one person or three hundred people, this second skin personality can be electric and ensure that, although the shyness does exist, what is exposed is a natural communicator and networker.
Nick Gold is the managing director of Speakers Corner.