“I’d rather have spiders crawl all over my body than speak in public.” “A pit of slithering snakes is more appealing than walking onto a stage in front of an audience of even twenty people.”
These are the kind of comments I’ve heard people say when I so much as suggest that in order to fulfill their destiny and their mission, they are going to have to learn to speak in public. I can relate to their fear. I used to dread presenting. I was fine in the conference room, but the minute I had to take a stage, my knees would shake, my voice would quiver and my heart rate would accelerate to the point of palpitations. But before you call 911, read on. This article is how I overcame my fear so you can too.
Before you say, “I’ll never get over it, and I don’t have to. I don’t need to speak in public to get where I want to go,” guess again. You most certainly will have to speak somewhere sometime, so you had best be prepared. Preparation doesn’t have to be complicated. You simply need a few principles to set you on the right track.
This article is not about speaking technique. You can find many articles on how to write and deliver a speech. I’m talking about how you actually summon up the courage to get yourself up on that stage in front of all those anticipating faces and deliver the speech. Understand that short of simply being fearless and hurling yourself into the eye of the tornado, the things I’m suggesting below take time. If you’re the hurling type, forget everything below and just go for it. When you fall down, get up–you’re probably the type of person who does that a lot, so it doesn’t faze you. But if you are one of the other 98% of people–even wild and crazy entrepreneurs–then read on. These are the methods that worked for me, and I believe can work for you.
- Win a few wars - No matter what you do, you have to have won a few wars in your life to earn the right to be on a stage. When it comes to your subject matter, if you haven’t yet lived through the tough stuff and basked in some real successes, give yourself time. You’ll need an arsenal of real-life stories to not only keep things interesting, but to maintain your confidence in the face of skeptics in your audience. This is all part of earning the right to be on that stage.
- Overcome another fear – The thing that used to scare me as much as climbing onto a stage was climbing up anything high, particularly if a ledge and steep drop-off were involved. Thanks to my EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization) Group and a retreat to Arizona’s Rim Country, I got over my fear once and for all. Unknown to any of us, we were going on a rappelling adventure. Not wanting to look like a wuss, I strapped on the gear, got my instructions and backed off a 200-foot cliff. After that first step I wanted to pull myself back up, but I didn’t. I mustered up my courage and kept going. Now before I get on stage I always think, “Kathy, you backed off a 200-foot cliff. You can do this!” Find your “cliff,” conquer it, and you’ll gain a new sense of power.
- Watch and learn – I spent years booking speakers for events, so I have seen and worked with the good, the great, and even a few “booking mistakes.” The best speakers in the world are versed in their subjects through experience and speak from the heart. They tell stories and involve the audience. If you’d like to view speakers and don’t have the opportunity to attend events, go to kepplerspeakers.com and watch a few videos. Jamie Clarke is one I recommend you watch. Another great speaker is Blair Singer; and yet another is Robert Kiyosaki. Each has very different styles. But all speak from experience and the heart.
- Find a coach – Blair Singer and Robert Kiyosaki have been and continue to be my coaches. They have guided me and I’m smart enough to listen to their instruction and follow what they say. It takes more than confidence to be on stage; it takes learning how to command a room and these two are the masters. They also knew how to bring out a side of me that I didn’t know was there. Find someone–a speaker you admire, a speech coach, a performer–who can guide you and bring out the “bigger you” as Blair says.
- Be open to feedback - If you can’t take constructive criticism, then you may want to rethink what you are doing or better yet, change your ways. Feedback is critical to improvement and growth in everything you do, but with speaking, it is ultra important. Do what your coach tells you to do, listen to the audience feedback, watch their faces. If they are falling asleep, you are probably boring them. Recognize that this feedback has nothing to do with speaking right after lunch, or with their level of interest in your subject. Understand, it’s not them, it’s you. And then adjust for the next time. Continual improvement is part of the game.
- Practice, practice, practice – Until you are sick of it! Until you are tired of hearing yourself. But believe me, that will be the least of your problems when it comes to practicing. Getting started will be the toughest part because it feels really strange to get up and speak–with feeling–to no one but yourself. You must do it, and I should say practicing in your mind or quietly to yourself doesn’t count. Twenty times aloud commits your content to memory forever.
- Perfection is boring – Too many people think they must be perfect on stage. Nothing could be more wrong. I once did some speaking videos and knew they weren’t good but couldn’t quite figure out why. Another speech coach who I refer clients to took a look and said, “Kathy, you’re trying to be perfect. And perfect is boring. Just be yourself.” Lesson learned. Now I applaud the real-ness of speakers. That’s what separates the good from the great.
I have a long way to go, but because building a brand means being a spokesperson, I’m willing to do the work and learn. This has been and continues to be my path for the last three years. With the help of Robert and Blair and the feedback I receive from every engagement, I grow with each presentation. I encourage you to take the same leap I took and continue to take. It’s tough, invigorating, and worth it!
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding.