Lee Glickstein has spent most of his life afflicted by extreme public speaking anxiety. He tried every strategy in the book to bolster his confidence, including joining Toastmasters – which, he says, he flunked out of. But Lee didn’t give up, and perseverance led to epiphany. He traced his own anxiety back to childhood when he felt judged, mocked or simply ignored by his family during their nightly dinner conversations.
That insight helped Lee realize his public speaking “block” wasn’t about his ability to power through a speech or presentation. Rather, it was based on his inability to “receive” supportive, active listening from his audience. Lee knew he wasn’t alone in his public speaking anxiety (research shows the majority of us feel nervous or uncomfortable at best when it’s time to present). His desire to help others overcome stage fright and live a richer, more rewarding life as a result, inspired Lee to launch his own business called Speaking Circles.
That was back in 1989. Today, Speaking Circles International has facilitators who run workshops and classes across the United States and globally in countries including England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and New Zealand. Here, Lee explains the Pleasure Principle of Public Speaking and his unique approach to helping people become confident on a stage, behind a podium or simply during a dinner-time discussion.
Lee, what compelled you to build a business around public speaking, something you absolutely dreaded?
I suffered from extreme public speaking anxiety into my late 40s. Nothing worked. But once I had the epiphany that my issue stemmed from a block in receiving the available listening, everything changed. No one else was teaching public speaking from this perspective, so I had to do it myself. I’d already observed there was an epidemic of stage fright, and Speaking Circles turned out to be a good business.
You talk about the “Pleasure Principle” of public speaking. What does that mean?
When you learn how to own your own voice, speaking in front of others can be a very positive experience. The Pleasure Principle means you’ve allowed four things to happen:
You create a “field of belonging” in a group by holding the calm center co-mindfully
You invite connection and communicate with ease every time
You access your natural magnetism to improve the quality of your business presentations and relationships
You bring out the best in others by seeing the best in them
All these things can happen if the speaker is genuinely attuned to the members of the audience. That’s the key shift – when you present to others, your real work isn’t speaking, it’s listening.
When we tap into this principle during a Speaking Circle, I ask participants to do three things: Breathe, look at each person and allow them to look at you. It’s important to remember the audience is almost always on your side. We’re all in this together.
I call this process coming into “relational presence” with your audience. It means you can tap into the pure pleasure of being with your audience. When you establish your own sense of self, then you can discover what you think, what you know and what you want to say.
That sounds extremely powerful.
It is. Participants tell me all the time how Speaking Circles has changed their life. The experience leaves people feeling “expanded,” “opened up” and “accepted.” People who have been paralyzed by stage fright are now able to speak at weddings and funerals. They address teams of people and present to boards of directors.
One woman, who had spent her life trying very hard not to be noticed or heard, quit her job and found a new position as a director in a huge company. She convinced ten executives she was the right person for the job. It all came down to her genuinely connecting with each person and establishing a true “relational presence.”
Lee, tell us one thing you’ve learned from your work that’s surprised you.
Introverts make the best public speakers because they are great listeners, and speaking is more about listening than speaking. Hardly anyone knows this.
Why is it important for small business owners and entrepreneurs to be able to speak confidently in public?
Opportunities to promote your business and educate others about your products or services often appear out of nowhere. If you’re a confident public speaker, you can get up anywhere, at any time and make a good impression.
You’ve worked for yourself for years now. What do you love about being your own boss?
I love being able to sleep in!
QB Community members, how often do you present in front of an audience? What’s your best trick for giving a great presentation?
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I’ve been self-employed for most of my career as content specialist, so I know how much discipline and determination it takes to run your own business. As QB Community Content Chief, I love sharing the stories of people committed to doing things their way. I hope you’ll join our community and share your inspiring story!