This ONE technique is essential for performing under pressure:

By Laura Bergells on
Practice and Drill Public Speaking Techniques

A colleague told me about a women’s self defense class she was taking. She shared some surprising information she learned.

For me, the information was surprising on two levels. The first level was the actual new information about women’s self defense I learned. My colleague said,

“If you’re being attacked, my instructor said you’re supposed to yell as loud as you can to attract attention. But you’re supposed to yell swear words and filthy language at the top of your lungs, because that REALLY attracts attention. People have grown accustomed women screaming, so they tend to filter it out. But they aren’t accustomed to women screaming filth, so then they know something is wrong.”

Well, now. That’s new information to me. I didn’t know that. And I was surprised to hear it.

But then I got surprised on another level. My colleague continued,

“Of course, we couldn’t practice or drill on that technique. The instructor didn’t want us yelling dirty words in her class.”

That surprised me, too. If a technique is effective, you need to practice it. You need to drill. It may be uncomfortable, but PRACTICE is essential to making a new technique second nature.

After all, athletes drill the fundamentals all the time. That way, when they’re in the clutch, they don’t have to think about what to do. They already know what to do. They’ve practiced it a zillion times until it’s part of their muscle memory.

In speech and crisis response classes, we imagine all types of audience scenarios. We rehearse worst-case scenarios. We do walk-throughs. We drill on what to say and how to say it. When you’re faced with a difficult or high-pressure situation, you’ll need to know what to do without spending too much time thinking about how to do it.

I’m not sure if the “dirty word” self defense technique is effective. It might be — it might not be. (I’m skeptical.)

But I know if students don’t practice the technique, they won’t use it effectively when faced with a high-pressure situation. If you want to make a technique second nature – you’ve got to practice it. Especially if it’s difficult, hard to hear… or even taboo.


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.