When you’d love to do a TEDx talk – but your inner voice says ‘No Way!’
This is a true story. I was a very shy little boy – not bold like the other kids around me were. I had a couple of childhood illnesses – one of which was recurrent and painful – the other which nearly killed me. Those experiences pulled the rug out from under my feet.
Quite traumatic, really. I grew up a bit shy and awkward – and with introvert tendencies that I inherited from my father. Not a great combination when it comes to speaking up. Sit me down at a dinner party and small talk eludes me. Plus, public speaking is the number one fear in most cultures – ranking above fear of death for some.
In 2015, I delivered a TEDx talk. I was very nearly sick before I went on stage – but I did it. Now, I’m happy to talk in front of audiences all over the country. What changed? The answers may surprise you.
I was used to talking to small groups, running workshops and training sessions. I was pretty good at that. But the notion of ‘public speaking’ completely freaked me out. Not least because everyone else – even quite confident people, seemed to be freaked out by it too. So what chance had I? The thing that helped me make the change was a re-framing of the goal.
Light-bulb Moment #1: Learning to speak in public is not the goal.
First, stop looking at the talk as the end goal. That alone may not give you enough incentive to push past the fear. What’s the greater goal? Well – it’s all the goodies that come from developing the skill to talk effectively in public. As a coach, talks provide a stream of new clients – many more than I get via social media or my website. Being in front of people creates a powerful connection – and a sense of credibility – that can’t be earned so quickly any other way. People get to experience who you really are – via all of their senses – and if they feel that your values and theirs match up then they are more likely to keep an eye on what you are doing, follow you on social media and get in touch when the time is right. If that connection is strong enough, they may well come over after the talk to have a chat. Being able to speak in front of an audience is a super-power. And if the truth is told – you don’t have to be super slick. A bit of wobbly authenticity can actually make you appear more approachable. I’d rather listen to a nervous presenter speaking from the heart than a highly polished presenter who just seems to be trotting out a well-rehearsed script.
Light-bulb Moment #2: It’s not the public speaking you are scared of.
Second – it’s really not public speaking you are scared of. It’s more likely that you are scared of the unpleasant physical sensations of fear – the sweaty palms, dry mouth, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, etc. – well here’s the rub – those sensations may remain with you but you learn to be friends with them so they do not bother you anymore. When nerves kick in – and they always will – everyone experiences much the same things. If you try and fight the feelings down, they will simply get worse. The trick is to notice and become familiar with them – and then give them a name. I call mine my ‘public speaking collywobbles’. They are now like a faithful friend who appears whenever I am about to step up and try to do something challenging. They are reminder to keep me on my toes. And I channel what I used to experience as negative energy into creating something positive and full of life.
Light-bulb Moment #3: Your fears are there to protect you.
Your fears are there to protect you. If we didn’t feel fear, we could end up in all sorts of trouble. So the anxieties that arise when you think about public speaking are really all about risk management and ensuring you pay attention to what’s going on. I’ve written a couple of other posts that explain ways of building confidence and getting the preparation right. Most hurdles can be overcome by building your confidence in a series of tiny steps.
Best wishes – Pete
Need some help in getting started? I offer 1-1 support to people to want to be coached through pitching, presenting and public speaking. I do a one hour 1-1 Skype/phone masterclass with accompanying checklists – which will help sort your ideas and get off to a great start.
My second book, The Art of Shouting Quietly, was self published and crowdfunded. The campaign was oversubscribed and I sold the book in 15 countries before I’d finished writing it. There are lots of ways to get noticed now. I wonder which might suit you?
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