Are you frightened of speaking in public?
If so, then you’ll be pleased to know that you are not the only one! Research has found that speaking in public is the number one fear for most people. It comes even higher than the fear of dying.
So quite literally, people would rather die than be in front of a group of people and speak!
There is even a grand name for the fear of public speaking – Glassophobia.
The research also found that the number two fear for most people is walking into a roomful of strangers. And third comes the fear of death.
Today in this extra-long post, I am sharing with you what I learnt last week when I spoke in front of 300+ people for 90 minutes. I kept the audience engaged during most of that time and received some encouraging feedback, both straight after my talk and also via various emails since then.
My talk was about how to self-publish a book and make it successful via Social Media as well as offline marketing – it was all based around my best-selling book Get the Life you Love.
So you may well ask what the big deal is about me speaking at this event?
Well, it was the first time I have spoken on a big stage with such a large, discerning audience, hungry for information and for such a long period.
The previous biggest public talk I had done was at an event run by my friend Andy Bargery, the London Bloggers Meetup in a London pub to a group of about 100 bloggers, along with my friend Leo Babauta in April 2011 – and that was only for 10 minutes in front of a friendly and jolly audience.
This was also such a big thing for me because believe it or not, at one time I was rather shy and self-conscious! As a young boy, when we had to recite our times-tables in the front of the room, I used to rush through my tables like an express train and couldn’t wait to get back to my seat.
At college, I rarely spoke up in lectures and in social settings I was usually the quiet one, letting others lead the conversation. And yet, like all of you, I had so much to offer.
Things shifted for me when I trained as a coach and began to put myself out there much more. I threw myself into personal development and part of that involved being in front of people. It was all about letting go of the fear of others and not being concerned any more about what they thought of me.
“What you think of me is none of my business” – Wayne Dyer
The most challenging thing I experienced around people was at a personal development seminar when we had to look directly into a stranger’s eyes for 3 minutes without wavering. This may sound a little strange to some of you – but it was one of the most amazing and liberating experiences for me when I did this exercise the first time around.
The exercise was all about being totally vulnerable and open to someone else and seeing their own humanity and vulnerability. Once I had done this exercise, it became very easy for me to be comfortable around other people.
As for being in front of large crowds, I volunteered to be a “mike-runner” at seminars run by Fiona Harrold, one of the UK’s top personal development coaches. I was the person who zipped around the room with a microphone, anytime a member of the audience had a question for the speaker.
Last year, I did the same exercise for Marianne Williamson, one of the leading spiritual teachers in the world and it felt great to be on her platform and being completely present to her message.
By now, you must be getting an idea of where I am going with this post – YOU too can learn to get over your fear of being in front of people and speaking.
It’s all about taking small steps towards speaking in public, and keeping going until one day you are comfortable in doing so.
If I can do it, so can you.
Here are my 10 key lessons from my breakthrough speech last week:-
1. Be Authentic and Genuine
This is the key lesson!
If you take away nothing else from this post but remember this point alone, then I’ll have fulfilled my objective for writing this post.
Just be yourself when speaking and people will GET you.
You have probably heard this many times – and yet so many people fall down at this point when they try and emulate someone else when speaking in public.
You are unique - so let the world see just how unique you are.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland
I received a lot of generous feedback after my talk last week – and most of it centred around how genuine and authentic I came across.
Now remember that there were 12 speakers at the event over 3 days i.e. 11 other speakers besides me. I wasn’t the most polished or accomplished speaker. I broke almost all the cardinal rules of speaking from a stage. And I didn’t have any experience about selling from the platform.
Yet, people got me – and that was because I didn’t try to be anyone else but me.
I am not the type of high energy speaker who will get everyone high-fiving every few minutes. It’s just not my style and it’s just not me.
However what the audience got to see was my own passion for helping them and contributing in some way to them and to the world.
And that’s all I could do – be myself. So you just have to be yourself. You have to find your fire!
“You don’t fully live unless you show what genius was created when you fell to earth.” – Nicky Pattinson
At the same time, I totally get that there’s a lot of room for improvement in my speaking style, manner of delivery, stagecraft and so on.
My journey of speaking in public on the large stage has only just begun…
2. Believe in Yourself and Value Yourself
It all starts with self-belief and knowing that you have something important to share and contribute – and believe it or not, you do have a lot to offer to others.
Everyone has a unique life story with its own challenges and triumphs and that alone makes it worth sharing. Pick out your key learnings and share them with others in an inspiring way.
“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy” – Norman Vincent Peale
Believe in what you have to say and what you have to offer. Value your products and services – remember that what you do will inspire others and change lives.
(If anything, I undersold myself as my up-sell offer at the end of my talk offered terrific value when compared with what the other speakers over the weekend were offering).
At the same time, when you are on stage in front of a large audience, it’s only natural to be a bit nervous – but no matter how daunting it may seem, remember to feel the fear and change the world anyway.
So go ahead, find your voice and strut your stuff!
3. Connect with People at a Human Level and Move them
All communication ultimately is about connecting with others at a deeper level – and this is no different when speaking in public.
I shared my story of how experiencing unconditional love for the first time changed my life forever – this was at an orphanage in South India.
I ended my talk with a video of Nirvana School – and there was what felt like pin drop silence interrupted by a couple of people in the audience sobbing away.
I clearly touched and moved them in some way.
One woman even ran out of the room crying her eyes out after she watched the video. She handed me her business card and she had scrawled on it how I had changed her life in 90 minutes!
She met me afterwards and hired me to coach her through her own book journey. And all because I touched her at a deep level.
(Side note – is it possible to cry your eyes OUT? Just wondering…)
Remember – a speech can change a life.
The key is to connect with others at a deeper level – and then you just let the magic and miracles take place.
4. See Yourself as the Expert You Are
Always remember that YOU are an “expert”!
The realisation that over 300 people had turned up early on a sunny Sunday morning to listen to my talk strangely didn’t put any pressure on me. And that was because I knew I had a lot of useful information to share with them.
If you know your stuff and you are confident about putting it across well, then you are certain to shine on any speaking stage.
Also, knowing that most of your audience would rather die than be in your shoes on the stage makes it easier to know and accept that you are an expert and you have something useful to share with them.
Of course, it goes without saying that you have to know your stuff! But you don’t need to be a world authority either – just enough for the needs and expectations of your audience.
5. Tell Your Story
The most amazing thing about speaking in public is how through your stories you can dramatically change someone’s life.
People can be inspired to do things in a different way – and their life and the world will never be the same again.
I shared the story of how my first book got published after I ran a fundraising event for Comic Relief in my local coffee shop in St Johns Wood, Central London. I was even coerced into putting on the red wig again on the stage!
That day of making a fool of myself with a red wig all for a good cause ultimately led to my first book and then the second book – Get the Life you Love. A classic example of giving and then receiving much more back!
People love stories – so share your stories of the ups and downs of your life – and how you overcame the sort of challenges they might face too. Show them how they can also overcome similar challenges.
Share your stories – educate, inform and inspire others.
6. Come from a Place of Wanting to Contribute, Share and Teach
When you genuinely come from a place of wanting to contribute and help others, magic happens!
About 10 minutes into my talk, according to a friend in the audience, I visibly relaxed and it felt like I was in the flow. Looking back, I remember no longer feeling nervous at all and my voice also became more confident.
At that moment, I felt really privileged to be in front of all these people and able to help them with their own book publishing and marketing journeys.
Somehow, I got into the flow and I put myself out of the picture.
So look at how you too can bring this mentality into your own public speaking.
7. Learn from other Speakers
I was lucky in a way that the scheduled slot for my talk was for Sunday morning at 9.30 – the time when some of the people in the audience would have normally gone to church:-).
This allowed me to attend the previous two days to learn from the 8 speakers who were speaking before me. And I learnt a lot from their different styles, energy, authenticity and overall persona.
I felt empowered to know that I was going to be on the same stage as them.
So take up all opportunities you get to see and hear other public speakers in action. By just learning one thing from each speaker, you’ll soon build up your own skills and confidence. Just get started on your ladder of learning and take one step at a time – you just don’t know where your speaking career is going to take you.
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step” – Dr Martin Luther King
You can also study and learn from some of the great orators of our time such as Dr Martin Luther King.
Keep learning from others…
8. Preparation and Rehearsal
It goes without saying that you have to prepare your talk – but I’ll say it anyway:-).
For my presentation, I had over 100 slides to get through in 90 minutes and though I got through them all, in hindsight this was far too many. The slides stopped me from engaging much more with the audience.
Also, looking back I would have rehearsed my talk a lot more than I did but having been through the slides many times, I had a very clear idea of what I was going to cover in my talk.
In your case, do prepare thoroughly and before your event, do find a trial audience to rehearse in front of. Ask for critical and specific feedback.
9. Accept Help from Others
I am truly honoured and privileged to have had so much help from so many people before, during and even after my presentation that helped me with my debut on the big stage.
My friend Kavit Haria gave me critical feedback into my presentations slides and my mentor Philip Khan-Panni, who was also in the audience, emphasised the need for one strong coherent message throughout my talk.
One of the people who attended the event, Edward Field, gave me a very thorough breakdown of my talk and how I could improve it from a content, style and theatrical viewpoint.
Then earlier this week, Carole Spiers, who trains professional speakers, spent an hour with me and gifted me a thorough analysis and suggestions for improving. And all this simply because she wants to help with my growth.
Ian ‘Maxi’ Jackson, Sabine Kohler and Ian Sumner were three friendly faces in the audience and I could really feel their positive vibes from the stage.
And the highly creative and talented Sheetal Thaker jazzed up my presentation slides.
It’s actually about being open and willing to ask for and then accept help from others.
So the key is this – be open to receiving professional and personal help from others.
People want to help you – you simply have to ask for help.
Give them a chance to contribute to you.
Of course, if you are really serious about being a professional speaker, then you should seriously consider working with a professional speaking coach such as Carole Spiers.
And if you need any further inspiration or encouragement, look no further than the amazing Andy McMenemy who I met that weekend – he is the guy who ran 66 Ultra-Marathons (50Km / 31 miles) in 66 days!
10. Speak, Speak, Speak
There are so many opportunities for you to improve your speaking and to get in front of an audience.
For a start, check out Toastmasters - there’s bound to be a club local to you. This is a great way to get started with speaking in public in a supportive environment. Check out a few different clubs till you find one that really resonates with you.
You might want to also consider joining your local debating society.
As for other speaking and learning opportunities, ask around amongst your family, friends, work colleagues and other people in your community. Also put it out there on all your Social Media channels. Simply let everyone know that you are up for speaking in public.
So many organisations such as clubs and even schools are always looking for interesting speakers who can add value to their members.
Start with small audiences and soon you will rapidly build up your confidence and expertise to speak in front of a larger crowd.
As you progress, you can consider joining up a professional group such as the Professional Speakers Association in the UK and the National Speakers Association in the USA. Find a similar organisation in your own country.
Bonus Key Point:-
So those are my ten key learning points from my speaking event. But here’s something else I would like you to remember:-
No matter what, enjoy the experience and be prepared to learn from it.
If you don’t enjoy it, why would you even do it?
What would I do differently next time?
I learnt a lot from my first ever large speaking event and there are a number of things I would do differently. You too should bear these points in mind:-
- Prepare much more in advance.
- Practise and rehearse in front of a small audience a few times.
- Get some voice training.
- Have more movement on the stage – as long as it was congruent with my message.
- Pause more between my key sentences.
- Have fewer slides and more spoken words. Switch off the projector if need be.
- Get more audience engagement with direct questions to them.
- Make my up-sell offer simpler and more focussed
These are all areas for me to work on before my next event.
Final Thoughts for You
I started off by talking about talking about the fear of public speaking and how most people would rather die than be in front of a group of people. But by focussing on the bigger picture and your key message, you can overcome any fear!
So finally, here are the 3 key questions that I started my presentation at the Bootcamp:-
- What are the principles YOU live your life by?
- What difference are you here to make in the world?
- What’s your BIG message for the world and when will you get it out there?
And this is the key question that I ended my talk:-
You only have one life – are you ready to make it BIG?
Well, are you!?
What’s Next for You?
If you are remotely interested in speaking in public, I urge you to get started on your journey as soon as possible. If I can do it, you can do it too.
To get you going, I suggest you go through the above key points again and get started today, no matter how small. Then do whatever is necessary for you to get your message out there – whether it’s through your speaking or also through your books.
What’s Next for Me?
I want to do much more professional speaking and make a greater impact. So if you or anyone you know is looking for an inspirational speaker, please contact me.
Though I can speak around many personal development topics, I would initially like to focus on the following:-
- How to use Social Media to Get your Book and Message out There
- How to Get the Life you Love and Make the World a Better Place at the Same Time
- How to Bring Personal Social Responsibility into your Life and your Workplace
Of course I can tailor my talk to your requirements.
Make It Happen Coaching
If you would like coaching to make it happen in any area of your life, please contact me and we can discuss how we can work together. I have 3 different packages to suit your needs.
Also, I am still open to taking on further coaching clients from the offer I made at the Millionaire Author’s Bootcamp. If you are interested in making a success of your book, then email me and request the slides from my presentation – we can then discuss the way forward.
It’s high time you got your message out there!
Please Add Your Commens
Now over to you! What wisdom can you share about public speaking? How can one become a better speaker?
Please add your ideas and suggestions so that other readers can learn from you.