As many of you know, public speaking was an area I had real issues with. But recently I stood up infront of hundreds of people in Washington D.C with cameras rolling, and gave a 65 min presentation that went REALLY well.
So how on earth did I manage to overcome my biggest fear in life, and not only do it, but do it well?
Quite simply, I was given great advice.
So I thought that today I would share some of that advice with you today. Afterall, If I can do it, ANYONE can do it.
1: Don’t Fight the Inevitable
I started out by saying things like: “I could do a good presentation, but only if I am not nervous”… here is the thing, you ARE going to be nervous. Even experts get nervous after years of practice.
Accept the nerves, do not fight them, and don’t beat yourself up over them.
They are there to help you, so even though they may not feel great, and they may even keep you up at night… ultimately, they WILL help you.
One person told me that when I start to feel nervous, I should try and amplify it, and say to myself “bring it on!”.
Beating yourself up over nerves is only going to make you feel worse, please remember that.
2: Visualise Success
Ok, I know this sounds kinda cheesy, but it works. I believe it was the US golfer Fred Couples who as a teenager, used to visualise and practice giving his Masters winners’ interview.
Here is the amazing thing… the US Masters was the ONLY major he won, and guess who was the guy doing the interview?
The guy who shared a room with him at college who he practiced the interview with.
Your brain is a funny thing… it doesn’t fully know the difference between you visualising it and actually doing it. So when I was walking on stage for the first time, my head thought I had already done it a few times.
3: Structure is key.
I don’t have time to get into structure too deeply, but it is VITAL.
The key is to tell them what you are about to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you just told them.
This helps people remember you.
Also, summarise each section, ideally with 3 points per section. Then summarise at the end.
4: Have a creative opener
This is vital.
The first 5 mins and the last 5 mins are most of what people will remember, and the first 5 mins is when you will be most nervous, so you have to have your opening ready.
I like to make people laugh, so it was vital that my opener achieved some laughter.
I spoke with the host (Yanik Silver) and said that it was important that he got everyone to stand and clap as I came on stage… then, when I walked on stage I said “please, please….. continue”.
Not the greatest joke in the world, but it got a big laugh, and people relaxed, which helped me relax.
5: Have a bottle of water.
I brought the biggest bottle of water I could find. I did this for two reasons:
1) My mouth goes dry pretty quickly when I speak
2) If my hand started to shake, it wouldn’t be noticeable with a large, heavy bottle.
Ideally you want to take a drink every 10 mins or so.
You can structure your presentation to give you water breaks, for example, you could show a video clip.
I personally asked the audience a question, or, I asked them to write down a specific point. This bought me 5 seconds in which to drink.
Many people say that practicing in a mirror is useful… for me, it would make me feel like a prat.
You have to practice the REAL thing.
So, I arranged to do 3 webinars with a LIVE audience of hundreds of people. This helped me fight the nerves, whilst practicing my material.
Then, when I was comfortable doing it via audio, I did it infront of a small, live audience on two occasions.
Was I nervous?
YES, but better to be nervous infront of a few people than a few hundred. Had I just gone to Washington with no practice, I would have been a mess.
Nobody has ever died from public speaking. Worst case scenario was that I looked a fool… but in the grand scheme of things, is that so bad?
I would have felt more of a fool for not taking this opportunity, so it was a no lose scenario.
It is key you put it into perspective, I was given the news the day before I flew to Washington that my ex had been in a car crash (hit by a drunken bus driver)… and whilst this was awful news, it made me realise that some things are more important than saying a few words on stage.
This was one of the hardest and scariest things I have ever done in my life. But I did it, and it went really well, and what’s more, I really enjoyed it. So much so that I may well follow people’s advice and consider doing it regularly.
PS: A special thanks to the three people who went out of their way to actively help me with this. You know who you are. Beers are on me.
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