“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” ~ George Jessel
How can something be both exhilarating and intimidating? It’s like the fine line between love and hate; you feel the thrill of exhilaration and the fear of intimidation at the same time.
I spoke at two events in the same week recently, and while I don’t like to pat myself on the back, I do know my material, but it’s almost like my brain shuts off as soon as I walk onto the stage. What’s up with that? My journey to speak professionally started three years ago and I’ve actually wanted to speak professionally most of my life. My goal is to bring humor into my presentations; when appropriate. I’m a pretty funny gal.
So why does my brain play tricks on me? Most of it has to do with mindset. Will people like what I have to say? Why do they care what I have to say? Have they heard this stuff before? Mindset is probably the most important bridge to cross because we let our minds play games with us. However, the trick is for us not to listen because we are all great at what we do; we just have to believe in ourselves and do it!
I want to share a couple of things I learned from speaking at these events. I thought they might help you or someone you know let go of the intimidation so you can enjoy the excitement if you’re speaking at a workshop or thinking about starting to speak, or you have a presentation at school.
- Never wear black when you speak on stage. I wore a black skirt and jacket at one of the events and guess what? The curtain on the stage was black. All the audience saw was my face and my blue blouse. I should have remembered the information from my speaking classes, but it didn’t even cross my mind because I was so focused on my material and making sure I had everything else put together.
- You know your stuff. If you’ve practiced a million (okay a hundred) times, stop the chatter in your brain; shut it off. You wouldn’t be at the event if you weren’t an expert at what you are talking about so take a deep breath, enjoy the day, listen to the other presenters, see what you can learn from them – what they do great when they’re presenting, what’s not so great, and relax.
- If at all possible, don’t use notes as a crutch. I did and I probably would have executed my presentation better without them. My coach says, “People don’t know what you’re going to say so if you forget something it doesn’t matter. You can always go back and add it later.” I’ve vowed to myself I’m not going to use notes the next time. It’s like I mentioned above; it seems as if my mouth disconnects from my brain and foreign words start pouring forth!
- Tell stories during your presentation. This helps the audience relate to you and the information you’re sharing. If speakers just blurt out technical stuff, personally I go into La La Land. I can read a book and find out the same information. The more someone relates to you, the know, like, and trust factor is easier to develop which is huge for building your community!
- During my presentation, I mention not using “industry-specific jargon” in marketing materials or speeches because your audience might not understand what you’re saying. So what do I do? In my presentation, I used the words “pain points” when I was talking about determining who your ideal audience is and if you don’t know your audience you can’t market to them until you understand their pain points. It never occurred to me the people I was talking to wouldn’t know what “pain points” were. When it came time for Q&A the first question out of one of the audience members was, “When you say “pain point” what does that mean?” Wow, I talked about not using jargon and I used jargon.
Learning to speak professionally is a process and the process doesn’t start until we do. Also, we don’t become professional speakers overnight (unfortunately). We keep learning and recognizing what we’re doing right, what improvements we can make to do better because we’re students until we leave this earth. I continue to learn and grow, but I’ve started, I’m putting myself out there, and I’m being vulnerable. The funny thing is I’m also exhilarated and intimidated at the same time, and I’m loving it!
What’s one thing I shared with you and you thought I could do this? I’d love to hear from you. If you want to speak, go for it; one speech at a time.
Until next time,