A couple of years ago, I made a goal to do more speaking engagements. As a non-native English speaker, I have always been nervous about speaking in front of the public. The fear that I would sound ‘stupid’ or they would be ‘bored’ with my content or I have ‘nothing special’ to say. There are so many organizations like Toastmasters that can help you face the fear of public speaking, but I never went.
I fall in the category of ‘if I don’t force myself to do something, no matter how many meetings I attend or articles I read on the topic, I am not going to get what I need out of it.’ It is just not going to happen. So knowing myself and this irrational fear, one of my New Year’s goals was to do 12 speaking engagements and get paid for my time or the very least not spend anything out of pocket. It was an easy goal to write down, but the execution was another story.
The first thought I had was to reflect on what in the world I could talk about. What is the message I would want to show the world? I am sure there are how-to guides and videos on how to do this, but I took the ‘long’ way. I went on a mission to learn and figure it out myself, and through my process, I have learned the following:
- Craft a message that inspires you. I learned right away that if I didn’t believe what I was talking about, my audience could feel it. It doesn’t matter what the topic is as long as it’s something that inspires you and you are passionate about it. What took me by surprise, which it really shouldn’t have, is that everyone wants to learn. People go to conferences and summits or whatever place you are speaking at to learn and be inspired. The good thing about this situation is that people come with an open mind, so half your job in convincing someone of a topic is already done. Now it’s just a matter of showing them why you’re so inspired about this topic and why they should be as well.
- Create a demand. I started by booking engagements to speak on issues that I wanted to hear about, and I knew my colleagues and friends were also discussing. This helped me build my confidence because I was surrounded by people whom I knew would be interested in the same topics. I knew the demographic, I knew the kind of topic I wanted to listen to, and I knew what would motivate me. After a few of these engagements, I started branching out more into topics I wanted to learn about, topics I knew would get me other speaking gigs, and sometimes topics I thought needed a voice. With those engagements, I had to more homework to understand the audience and know their side of the story. I won’t lie, it is hard when you might not understand your audience or necessarily agree with what drives them, but more you can be open, it becomes more comfortable every time.
- It’s not about you. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a speaker spends the time speaking about themselves with no intention to connect with the audience – send me a resume to read – it would waste less of my time. The speakers I started emulating would use the terms ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘together.’ It is a subtle difference, but it creates a sense of connection.
- Be naked. Not physically, but it’s ok to be vulnerable and tell an embarrassing story if it helps you connect with the audience. It’s all about building your narrative – starting with your low point and eventually growing to a call of action
- Call for action. Audiences love it when you give them homework. It makes people feel like they got something out of it and it stays with them longer. So end all your speeches with a call for action.
Like everything, if you push your comfort zone a little, you’ll find your comfort zone grows. Trust me, do it – it doesn’t matter how many people show up to the event or what the topic is. Get yourself out there and speak about what truly drives you and eventually, you will see that it’s a venue to express yourself and help others connect with ideas that can impact their lives for the better. Moreover, you will have a blast doing it.