200: Is Speaking Genetic?

On this week's episode of This Moved Me, neuroscientist Carmen Simon shares her tips for speakers to help them create talks that audiences remember.

So, yesterday I got a message from a friend of mine showing me the results of his 23andMe report.... saying that he was genetically predisposed to a fear of public speaking. (And he speaks quite a bit.)

Hmmm! Interesting!

By the end of the day, another 3 people had reached out with their own results on this same thing. (23andMe - nice marketing!)

So... I HAVE OPINIONS! I'm passionate about this because I know the idea of public speaking keeps some people off the bigger stages in their lives, which is such a waste of your message, mission and purpose.

Everyone I've EVER worked with - from Harvard-educated CEO's to entrepreneurial go-getters to bad-ass seemingly-fearless leaders - has been afraid of the next big thing. Maybe it starts by speaking up in that board meeting or for a big one-on-one meeting for the first time...fear. But once they master that, they feel a pull to perhaps doing a smaller workshop... and soon after that workshop, now they want to do a TEDx talk. They might have done a few TEDx talks, but now they want to keynote a big conference. They might have mastered that keynote conference, but now they want to speak more, and for more money, on the big stages with the big names...And along the entire journey, fear is a constant companion.

When I gave my TEDx talk last fall, I was afraid. This speaking coach - who looooves the stage and loooooves speaking - was nervous. Of course I was! Because I cared, a lot.

This is how it works. EVERYONE has fear. EveryOne. And if you don't, you're not taking big enough risks. Fear and public speaking go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and chocolate. Or peanut butter and jelly. Or peanut butter and... apples? (So many good things with peanut butter!) Some of the best talks I've ever experienced had a visceral impact on me because it felt real and risky in a way that only accessing our fear can push us towards.

So - if you haven't been accessing your fear... it's not that you're simply one of the lucky ones that isn't genetically disposed to fearing public speaking... It might just mean you're ready for a bigger stage.

And if you ARE one of those "genetically predisposed" to fearing public speaking... guess what? It's a false distinction. You might have stronger feelings of fear, and access those feelings more easily - but it does NOT preclude you from sharing who you are and your essential message for this world. Please believe me. The world needs to hear your voice, too.

Maybe even more so.

Like peanut butter and bananas. (Don't knock it til you've tried it! YUM.)

Two kinds of fear:

#1: Shrinking Fear.

Shrinking fear is “danger!” fear… fear to keep you safe from something that will actually hurt you. That, on the other side of the experience, has shrunk you in some way. We want to stay away from shrinking fear.

#2: Growing Fear.

But Growing Fear is the kind of fear we want to move towards! It’s the fear that pushes us towards good risks, that challenges us, that still strikes discomfort and sometimes even terrifyingly real risks… but that, on the other side, we have grown. We’ve learned. Even if we’ve fallen on our face, we have become a bigger, better version of ourselves in the process.

Speaking is Growing Fear’s BFF. They hang out, a LOT. And that’s cool. Except that it means we have to step into FEAR.

So - 23 and Me. We might be more genetically inclined towards fearing public speaking. But it’s a lie that some people aren’t afraid. That’s bologna. So don’t let fear keep you from stepping into the next big thing, because feeling that fear means you’re doing something that really matters.

Cheering you on,

Sally Z

  • Sally’s opinions on this whole 23andMe thing

  • The thing that journeys along with us our entire journeys

  • What’s missing if you aren’t afraid

  • And the two kinds of fears that our primitive brains can’t distinguish between…

Carmen Simon and This Moved Me podcast host Sally Zimney discuss how to improve audience memory. Tips for speakers.