An entrepreneur shared with me recently that she was losing traction in her business. She’d tried advertising and online marketing but was spinning her wheels and getting nowhere.
I asked if she’d considered speaking, and she said she hadn’t. She thought that was for rock stars and was terrified of trying it herself. But it’s one of the fastest ways to gain exposure in this economy.
You don’t need to be a super star to speak. It doesn’t cost anything to give a talk. You don’t have to fly around the country or try to get booked on big stages. With a little creativity, you can find small venues and become the go-to expert on your subject in your own back yard.
The biggest hurdle is that most people are afraid of getting up in front of others. Many studies show that the fear of public speaking even trumps the fear of death, which comedian Jerry Seinfeld interpreted as meaning that at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.
It doesn’t have to be that bad!
The first step to conquering the fear of public speaking is to silence your inner critic — that wicked witch in the back of your head who tells you that no one cares about what you have to say and you’re going to mess up and make a fool of yourself.
You’ve got to muzzle the witch and start listening to the wizard, that smarter, more compassionate voice that wants you to succeed. Really, it boils down to a question of, “Who’s got the microphone in your head?” Your inner friend, or your inner fiend?
If it’s the latter, you need to change your internal channel. It can be as easy as switching from a negative discussion on the radio to a song that you love. Unfortunately, most people are stuck on the Fear and Loathing Channel when, with a simple twist of the dial, they could move themselves to The Awesomeness Channel.
The next step toward feeling comfortable speaking is to simply know you’re good enough. You can always fine tune your delivery, but being great onstage starts with basic self acceptance. It’s important to get a handle on your self worth, because if you feel inadequate, the audience will pick up on that and agree with you.
Studies show that only 7% of what we communicate comes through our words. The rest is transmitted non-verbally through our energy and attitude. What that means is that whether you think you’re good enough or not good enough, guess what? You’re right. So it’s useful to have someone neutral reflect back to you your own great qualities, because most of us find it impossible to see them in ourselves.
Lastly, it’s crucial to develop your own voice and style. Beginning speakers often don’t know how to put a talk together, so they model themselves on others. There’s only one thing wrong with that: If you swim in someone else’s river, you drown. Mimicking others can come off as inauthentic, which disconnects you from your audience.
Trust me, you don’t need to copy anyone else. When you develop your own voice and style, you’re going to be a knockout, because no one will have ever seen anything like it.
You’re an original, so play it to the hilt!
It’s my belief, based on mentoring others, that inside every self-proclaimed shy person hides a closet ham waiting to be released. The release of the inner ham is thrilling to watch and even more enjoyable to experience first hand.
Mastering the fear of being seen and heard can be a game changer both personally and professionally. It builds confidence, and going onstage casts you as a local expert as well as a community leader. It takes courage, but it’s liberating, and it opens up a whole new universe of opportunities, connections and fun.
In life you can either be a bystander or a participant. Play it safe, or play full out. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by stepping out of your comfort zone.
As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all!”