Public speaking is the number-one greatest fear for most people. As I shared in How Not To Bomb At Speaking, the reason is simple: We’re all concerned about the verbal lashing we’re getting in the minds of our audience. As we imagine what cruel and painful things they are thinking, we get all nervous and worked up about it. The funny thing is, if you think about how you listen to most speakers, YOU don’t spend your time just ripping them apart.
Well, maybe you do. If so, you’re a bully. Sorry. Anyway, most people are more concerned about the content of what is being shared then how it’s being shared. Unless you’re just really bad at speaking, most folks just want to hear what you have to say. Therefore, you have to make a decision that your attention should always be on your content. If you get that right, you can dial in the presentation part of it. It will come more naturally because your focus is now on what they hear, instead of how you say it. Eventually, nerves lose out to your desire to change lives.
Once you’ve gotten past all of that, you still need to deliver something that’s worthy of the time and attention of the folks listening to you. I don’t care if you’re speaking to 11 thousand people on stage or your elementary homeroom class. God has allowed you the attention of His children, educate and inspire them. Here are some tips on delivering that information without fear:
- It’s not you, it’s me – The first decision you have to make:, Is this presentation about you or the audience? If it’s about you, go ahead and be afraid. No really, you might as well because you are the only thing you’re going to think about. If it’s about your crowd, then there is a switch in your head that you can flip. It usually takes months to do it, but it can be done. Flip the switch from fear to care. Yes, care. I want you to genuinely care about what your group walks away with. Will the information you’re going to share change their lives, even if by just inspiring them? If not, fix it.
- Peyton’s leaving?! – Ok, as I write this, Peyton’s leaving the Colts. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, as I mentioned in You Better Get Ready!, Peyton said something that has stuck with me for years –Only the unprepared get nervous. People ask me if I get nervous all the time. HECK no…well, I don’t 99% of the time. I love being on a stage. It’s my happy place. The times I do get nervous, when someone says, We need you to stretch for five minutes. Ready, go! Now I’m in trouble. If I know what I’m talking about inside and out, there’s no need at all to be nervous. When I don’t, watch me look like practically any celebrity who’s sung the National Anthem.
- Glue those calluses back on –
Malcolm Gladwellsays that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on something. Some of the best guitar players in the world played until their calluses fell off. Then they would glue them back on so they could keep playing. While I don’t expect you to spend that much time on your presentation, I can tell you that attempting to speak it without practicing at least once is a colossal failure, like New Coke. You will deliver something that your public doesn’t want, and have to backtrack to fix the problem. I suggest a few run-throughs if at all possible. But definitely no less than one.
- Make this your Crossing the Rubicon – Make a decision that there is no going back. No matter what, you are committed to delivering this speech. When not doing something is an option, fear remains to try and convince you this is a mistake. When you have no doubt that you’re doing something, fear loses its foothold.
- Breathe – This is the one thing I see so many speakers not do. They don’t relax enough to breathe properly. Do yourself a favor, and at some time in your presentation, look around the room and realize that you like being where you are. I know, I know, it seems ridiculous, but I’ve had great experience when I’ve taken someone up on stage in front of a crowd, with no mics on, and asked them to just notice how it’s just a room full of people waiting to be taught. Nothing more, nothing less.
As you walk through each one of these steps, imagine fear being a sheet that is covering all of the amazingness that is you. Pull the sheet off and allow yourself to just be you. That’s who everyone wants to see anyway.
Question: What aspects of speaking are you afraid of? Can you take the mask of and share?