If you were given a choice to either speak to a large crowd of people, or
- Jump out of an airplane from 14,000 feet with a questionable parachute
- Permanently reside with your Aunt Bernice’s friends, Marge and Herb, who never miss the “Early Bird Special” AND play mahjong four times a week
- Accept a role, (with Marge and Herb), on the Discovery Channel’s, “Naked and Afraid?”
- All of the above
Are you considering your options right now? I totally empathize with you.
If you’re thinking that, being naked on TV with the equally naked Marge and Herb is a better alternative to public speaking, you are NOT alone. Yes, I know this isn’t news to anyone, but it is my hope that I can impart some wisdom and comfort, based on more than 25 years of a successful career in public speaking.
Public speaking, or “glossophopia” as it’s known to super smart people, (I just looked it up), in countless studies, is the #1 phobia individuals struggle with, even above fear of death, heights, spiders and worms. (Okay, I’m vermiphobic which is why I put that worm thing in there.)
P U B L I C S P E A K I N G
The mere idea of these two medium-sized words can send a lot of people into an uncontrollable frenzy, as they simultaneously dial their doc for a prescription of Xanax.
I’m writing this post, because I am coming out of the closet. I am, and always have been, from my very first speech to the one I have to present tonight, ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED OF PUBLIC SPEAKING. I just had to write this post, in hopes that I can comfort some of you. (and perhaps me too.)
Public speaking, (and the fear of it), has really been on my mind lately, since I do so much of it. One of the things I get hired to do is to train others on public speaking. I have to speak publicly to a large group about public speaking. (Mahjong anyone?) As I dive into the design of workshops, I see why I have fared so well as a public speaker, even though I am typically scared out of my cotton picking mind.
I practice an exercise to remain 100% focused on being totally present and authentic. Once I begin, and sometimes, even before a speech, I acknowledge that it isn’t a monologue or “an act” of any kind, but a conversation with a large group of people. I freakin’ love people.
This exercise exorcises my fear in a significant way.
Too many speakers adopt the belief, whether they’re aware of it or not, that they can rely on a podium or a PowerPoint or some other perceived security blanket to hide behind. I believe that once a public speaker accepts that idea, they completely miss the opportunity to get relaxed and be present in the conversation with their audience.
Of course, there’s a place for the podium, (not that I like them that much), and yes, there’s a place for slides and even a pointer. When I use these tools, I remind myself that they are for the audience and not for me. This way, I never leave my crowd and it paves the way for an excellent presentation. If I rely on these “tools,” I’ve left the crowd and I am no longer present. To me, THIS… the not being present or knowing how to get back to the audience, is the scariest part of public speaking.
A friend of mine once told me that years back, he’d worked at The Grand Ole Opry with Minnie Pearl <— (Young ‘ens, look her up.) My friend was backstage and she said to him, “Just love ’em and they will love you back.” Minnie Pearl was right.
Your takeaway from this post, is to watch some video footage of Minnie Pearl. She never let the price tag on her hat, distract you from loving her. Don’t let PowerPoint slides, or a podium or a pointer distract you from your primary purpose.
TO BE PRESENT & AUTHENTICALLY YOU.
Most crowds want you to succeed, because even if even if they’re jerky, they want to enjoy themselves. If you’re good at being you, which you already are,
They will love you back.