This is a little, funny picture that got me thinking. This is something we all do, consciously or subconsciously – we always outwardly display the best version of ourselves. Showing that you are in trouble is sometimes a good thing. For example when you really need a hand on a big or complicated project. However, in the corporate or business world, most of the time, showing you are in trouble is not a good idea.
The first lesson from a duck
When dealing with public speaking, a very hard skill to master is being able to only show what is useful. The first way of thinking about this duck is the way you present your work. It is being able to package your ideas and present only what is useful, worthwhile, and serves the outcome that you want to achieve. The message ought to be composed, calm and unruffled by unnecessary things.
Beneath the surface, that is, off the stage, there ought to be mountains of work, research and data gathered. All that work in order to produce this composed “product” or idea on the surface. It is wise to keep things under the surface. First of all, nobody wants to hear about all the work that you did. They want to hear, or at least are open to hearing, the key themes that transpired through the work.
Second of all, you must have things in the arsenal below the surface – so when somebody asks a question or challenges the idea, you are ready for it – because you have the statistic, you have the data, you have thought it through, you have consulted it with a specialist. In this way, the first lesson from the duck is to never show all your cards at once.
The second lesson from a duck
There is a second level of understanding the duck analogy. So, you have done your research; you have spent hours and hours rehearsing your pitch on a specific topic, and what you want to give to people is something beautiful, coherent and comprehensive. You can do that. You don’t have to tell these people about the multiple all-nighters you have pulled working on this topic, or the multiple arguments you had with specialists in the field.
However, there is another depth in this image. Something we call your Internal State i.e what is shown to the world when you are speaking in public. If you watch the footage of Mark Zuckerberg testifying in front of Congress, you can really see how he feels – how hard he is trying to control his answers and his nerves. For the first time ever in his career, he has ditched the sweater and plain shirt, and put on a suit. There are scenes that have gone viral – of Mark Zuckerberg nervously drinking water.
This is the body language of someone who forgot to be a duck.
Public speaking from the inside…
His internal state – a ruffled one – has been brought to the surface for everyone to see. This is something you do not want to do – you do not want to bring unnecessary stuff while you are speaking in public. Even if you are stressed – own it ! However, anger, fear, displaying your desire to perform, or create something memorable – have to be left outside of the room – or, to go back to the duck analogy – have to be below the surface. You have to have your ‘everything is okay’ face. Be positive, constructive and focused on the outcome you want to achieve. You do not want to be remembered for looking scared. At some point, you have to get rid of the unnecessary things in your mind when you are public speaking. When you get rid of everything unnecessary from your mind, you are here. You are present. You are fully present – this is the best way to serve your interests. So, the second lesson from a duck – is to never reveal how you are feeling if it is not conducive to your desired outcome.
Would ducks be good at poker?
So in short, it is always beneficial to keep things below the surface. Below the surface, we can hide our weaknesses and strengths in equal amounts to use for an advantage later. The main two lessons about public speaking that you can learn from a duck are very simple – do not show all your cards – because when public speaking – people do not care about ALL the details, just the key points. Secondly – clear your mind (push unnecessary things under the surface) and display a composed internal state. You do not have to have a poker face, but you should have your ‘everything is okay’ face. So with these two lessons in mind, do you think ducks would be good at poker? Let me know.
2 comments on “What you can learn about public speaking…from a duck”
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Well said and so true.