But Why Do We Dread Public Speaking So Much?
You might assume that your fear has to do with speaking in front of tons of people.
But guess what? It probably doesn’t.
According to career expert Jane Praeger, we fear public speaking because we fear being rejected, or being asked a question we can’t answer.
In ancient times, public speaking as a skill was known as rhetoric, and it was taught in schools across the Greek and Roman Empires.
However today it isn’t.
We are safely sheltered from that kind of pressure until one day we turn up for work and we are asked to perform…Yikes!
‘Action cures fear’ is one of my favorite quotes…so I decided it was time to face my fear and take action.
I found myself on a plane, destination Plymouth, with presentation in hand, homemade brownies in my bag and one million thoughts filling my mind.
Even though I was nervous (edit: terrified), I knew this was a great opportunity to help others become better communicators, and meet some amazing people. If I can do it, they can do it!
Public Speaking Is More Important Than Ever
Communication today is instant and direct. The transfer of ideas has become more efficient. Look around – almost everyone has something to say, as well as somewhere to say it and someone to say it to. Facebook live, YouTube, even little videos sent via What’s App or another instant messenger… and this is a good thing.
An idea can change lives, and it can change the world.
And because ideas can now spread to all corners of the globe, everyone, not only businesses, needs to broadcast their ideas effectively to make sure they don’t fall behind the competition, or become just another number.
TEDTalks is a global conference series that was setup to condense complex ideas into twenty-minute presentations. The presentations are given in front of a variety of crowds, but they’re also uploaded to the Internet where millions of people have access to them.
Webinars are being hosted all the time. Your workplace presentations can be seen live on the Internet by remote workers, investors, and clients, as well as those present in the same room.
Thanks to these innovations, more and more of us will have to give a public speech at some point in our lives, even if you don’t have a website and don’t promote yourself as a public speaker.
So, back to the Elite Man Conference. Almost immediately, I saw the benefits of putting myself out there.
By attending and taking part, I had the chance to finally meet Justin Stenstrom and Sarah Rudin, the organizers of the conference. Justin is a guy that I admire and trust, and who can make me laugh at a drop of a hat (we laugh at the same inappropriate stuff – the true sign of friendship). Sarah is his gorgeous (and equally hilarious) girlfriend.
It was also an opportunity to catch up with some other cool people that I had met at the Style Con back in March, such as Kyle (a.k.a The Distilled Man), Nate Adlam, Trevor Knows Expert and Harsh Pareek.
Boston Speaks Weighs In
After my presentation I met Kit Pang, founder of Boston Speaks, a company that helps public speakers prepare for a variety of public speaking events, such as TEDTalks, or other paid speaking engagements. Kit is a really cool guy with great energy. We got to chatting, and I asked him for his top public speaking tips for newbies.
“One of the top tips to being a better speaker before you hit the stage is getting yourself mentally prepared. Ask yourself: What is your state of mind? Great public speaking doesn’t begin on stage, it begins when you are preparing to speak.
For example, what do athletes do before they play for the world championship game? They sit on a bus and listen for motivational music to pump themselves up!
What do great speakers do before they speak to a million people? They pump themselves up and change their mindsets to: I HAVE GOT THIS AND I AM GOING TO ROCK THE STAGE!
What are some ways you can change your state of mind before you speak? This applies to networking events when you have to go around the table and introduce yourself, and this will work when you are the next speaker up.
Personally, I think of three things: 1) How can I really help the audience? 2) I am going to rock the stage and look at everyone in the eyes to build connection. And 3) It’s time to be myself, because I spent so much time practicing, a.k.a., it’s SHOWTIME!”
Great tips from a real pro (and a super nice guy). Here are a few more tidbits that I learned from Plymouth:
1. Content Is Still King
Your delivery might be amazing. You might be the best talker in the universe. You might have more charisma than a movie star.
But none of this matters if your content or idea is weak.
You need to have something to say to the audience that will add value to their lives. They have turned up to see you. They’re not going to go away satisfied if all you’ve got is a nice smile, a magic trick, and a killer execution of a witty one-liner. They want substance.
Ask yourself: “Is my presentation valuable? Am I giving the audience a fresh perspective? Will they leave my presentation with new knowledge?”
It was 10 a.m. on the first morning of the conference, and despite a long transatlantic journey with a late arrival into Plymouth the night before, I was excited about my content. I had spent a longgggg time piecing together the presentation, tweaking it and asking some very helpful people like Julian Hayes, Laura Yates, Patric Okumi and Nate Adlam to give me their feedback. My friends rock.
2. Find A Method That Suits YOU
What worked for me might not work for you. We all have different ways of delivering a speech. If you try to copy someone else and it’s not you, the audience would suss you out. They would feel like you were deceiving them.
Pick your own, unique style. Rhetoric might not be taught anymore, but in this digital age, techniques are always shared. Watch examples of public speaking (TEDTalks is a great place to start).
Then hone it and own it.
While I may have used less expressive body language than some of the other speakers, I tried to let my personality, sense of humor and love of the subject shine through. I didn’t try to be Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey…I gave the audience Claudia…Take me or leave me, baby. 🙂
3. Engage With Your Audience
Your audience isn’t going to be putty in your hands “just because”. You have to get them on your side by finding a way of engaging them.
Building a personal connection with your audience isn’t easy, but there are ways to do it. I find that establishing eye contact is the best method for me. It helps me to feel more relaxed, and sets up trust between myself and my audience.
Your audience will always recognize credibility, so building rapport through eye contact shows that you are someone worth connecting with.
I admit that I was incredibly lucky to have such a warm welcome at the conference. When I took the stage and looked out at the audience, I was met with smiling faces. There was so much encouragement and positive energy in the room that was being shared by both the presenters and the attendees. It was a unique experience… one I cannot wait to relive!
And last, but not least:
4. Turn Your Fear Into A Weapon
It might sound strange that after writing about the dreaded fear we face, I’m now telling you to acknowledge your fear and actually use it as a weapon. Despite what you might believe, this actually works.
When we’re a bit fearful on stage, we have a tendency to talk faster. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. Think about it like this: the slower you talk, the less energy you have. This can disengage a crowd, and worse, it can bore them.
When you fear something, you have adrenaline coursing through you. You speak faster, and with more energy and vitality. This is something you can tap into.
Moreover, audiences don’t mind a bit of vulnerability. If you look vulnerable, they are more likely to warm up to you. Don’t be afraid of showing you are human. Your audience will root for you (have a “Rocky moment”).
I’d like to leave you with a quote by Donald Kelly, “The Sales Evangelist.” who gave an amazing presentation filled with passion, humor and even a super sweet love story of how he met his wife.
When I asked Donald for his top public speaking tip, he said, “The best tip I would give is to know your audience and customize your message accordingly. With that in mind, I would also say as you do your presentation, seek first to entertain, then to educate your audience.” And boy, can that guy entertain 🙂 Great energy!
With so many horrible things going on in the world, it’s uplifting to find that there are still people trying to help others and trying to make it a better place.
After my presentation, I felt like I had conquered a kingdom. I connected with so many people in the process. Leaving on Monday was like saying goodbye to a group of old friends. I now know that next time I’m invited to speak at a similar event, I’ll have no hesitation! Oui. Oui. Oui!
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