Most of the time, you are giving presentations on ideas or companies or products that you enjoy. But what happens when you have to talk about something about which you don’t have much passion?
Professor and author of the New York Times best-seller, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth says: “Here’s what science has to say: passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.” Her research into career paths and goals can teach us how to approach our presentations with greater passion.
Many believe that becoming passionate about something is a lightning-strike, monumental, and instantaneous occasion. But Duckworth found that is rarely the case. Passion for something or someone tends to build over time, with repeated interactions or messages. So if you are asked to give a presentation about something you don’t feel instantly passionate about, don’t immediately turn that opportunity down or write it off.
Duckworth interviewed long-time college professor Barry Schwartz who had this to say about the long-term nature of developing passion. “There are a lot of things where the subtleties and exhilaration come with sticking with it for a while, getting elbow-deep into something. A lot of things seem uninteresting and superficial until you start doing them and, after a while, you realize that there are so many facets you didn’t know at the start, and you never can fully solve the problem, or fully understand it . . . that requires that you stick with it.”
When I have students who are trying to choose a major, or career path, or even a speech topic and they seem to be noncommittal or on-the-fence, I tell them to pay attention to their energy. What I mean by this is: live with the idea for a while. Often times, if you live with the idea for even just a little bit, you can become passionate. Duckworth says, “The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient.”
You have to expend energy to discover your energy. So, think about it. Research it. Talk to people about it. Experience it. Spend some time exploring it. And then, see if your energy for it increases or decreases. Have you grown more interested and excited, or has your interest and excitement waned?
If you are someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy public speaking, it could be that your negative energies toward public speaking are getting tangled up with your thoughts about the concept or product you are presenting. Instead of “I don’t want to present about that” it could just be your internal monologue of “I don’t want to present.” Don’t let your fear of public speaking keep you from speaking about things of or about which you have great knowledge or passion.
I have a friend who is a skilled podiatrist. She told me she is often asked to speak at conferences in her field to share her expertise. However, because of her fear of public speaking, she always says “no.” I encouraged her to try to say “yes” to the next opportunity that came up. I told her to focus on the good she’d be offering her community and all the many patients whose doctors got better at their practice because she found the confidence to share from her place of passion and knowledge.
More than likely, you might eventually have to give a presentation about which you aren’t really excited. In those cases, these words from our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, might be helpful: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Those cases, more than others, will display both your character and your speaking skills. Take it as a challenge and an opportunity for growth. Approach the development process with the same determination that you’d use to tackle a project that you loved. And then get after it. Work hard, and present with all the energy you can muster.
Passion is a crucial part of giving a great presentation. But passion may not be the intense and instantaneous feeling you thought it was. Sometimes, its more about hard work and dedication in the long haul.
Whatever your level of passion is towards your current project or public speaking in general, Ethos3 is here to help.
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