Attentional Control Is Key To Great Public-Speaking

Does the very thought of public-speaking send a shiver down your spine? Research has found that if you can better control your attention during your speech, your overall performance will not suffer despite all the butterflies running amok in your stomach. Next time, try using implementation intentions (if-then plans) to regulate your attention (“If I’m nervous, I will focus all my attention on that chair!”). For a long term solution, try meditation.

Public-speaking not only stresses you out terribly, but also your brain. It relies a great deal on your ability to self-regulate your attention as you have to constantly shift your focus between the self, speech, and audience. If you fail to regulate your attention effectively, things will start to fall apart. For instance, if you focus on yourself too much, you’ll be overly distracted by your mistakes. However, if you focus too much on the audience, you’ll forget what you are supposed to say.

In one study, researchers found that participants who could better regulate their attention when giving a speech outperform those who had worse attentional control ability. It seems that the ability to self-regulate your attention can help cope with public-speaking anxiety, and possibly negate the negative effects (e.g., forget your speech) caused by public-speaking.

For those who don’t give speeches at all, it’s still a good idea to try to improve your attentional control capacity. As public-speaking is a very social behaviour, these findings suggest that attentional control is not only key to giving a good speech, but also regulating your emotions in general.

Moreover, it also helps you focus on what really matters, instead of being distracted by Facebook updates. Or could it make you focus and engage so much in Facebook that you forget that you’re supposed to be doing something more important?

What do you think? Share you thoughts.

Source: Jones, C. R., Fazio, R. H., & Vasey, M. W. (2011). Attentional control buffers the effect of public-speaking anxiety on performance. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3(5), 556–561. doi:10.1177/1948550611430166

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