I work with a lot of clients on a wide variety of skill sets. For many, the primary focus is public speaking. The story is common: You’re confident in front of your team, but when you have to speak to larger groups, especially to high-stakes audiences or groups of people you don’t know as well, your heart races, your face turns red, palms sweat, and all sorts of self-defeating “what if” scenarios circulate through your mind.
What if I forget what I wanted to say?
What if I make a mistake?
What if they don’t like me?
What if I don’t come across as an expert?
What if they ask a question I can’t answer?
These self-defeating questions are what is referred to as “head trash.” It will pile up, fester, and become overwhelming unless you take action to get rid of it and replace it with something more productive.
When talking to one particular client whose head trash was getting the best of her, I said: “I’m going to tell you a secret that will change everything and help you speak with complete confidence. It’s just four little words. I want you to write them down in big letters, and tape the message to your computer, bathroom mirror, laptop, door or anywhere you’ll see it regularly. Will you do that?”
“Yes,” she agreed, and grabbed her pen.
Then I told her the secret: “IT’S…NOT… ABOUT… YOU.”
She wrote it down, then stared at it, processing its meaning.
“Here’s the key,” I continued. When you present, you’re focus needs to be on customer service. It is your primary responsibility to ensure that the audience has the best experience possible. Do you love your topic or at least think it’s really important? Share that passion with them, and help them understand it.
“Eye contact is your friend. Each person there wants to feel like you’re talking to them personally. Look at each person, all around the room, to let them know that they matter to you, and make them feel like they’re part of the event.”
She was digesting what I was telling her, so I continued. “When you go to hear a speaker, do you sit there critiquing them the whole time, hoping to catch a mistake? Of course not. If they make lots of mistakes or flounder, that makes everyone uncomfortable. You’re just hoping that they’ll be interesting and give you some important information to make it worth your while to have shown up. You are rooting for their success, because if they do well, you’ll have a good experience, which is what you really want in the end. That’s exactly what your audience is hoping for too.”
She was quiet for a moment, so I asked, “How do you feel about that?”
“Honestly?” she said, “As soon as you said it’s not about me, I felt instantly relieved. I can focus on taking care of the audience, because it is important that they feel like they learned something important. Then it’s not about performance perfection, whatever that means. Suddenly, it all seems like a very reachable goal. I know I can do this.”
So take out your “head trash,” and focus on serving your audience. You can start with thinking about what kind of speaker you’d want to listen to if you were in audience, and then work on letting those qualities shine through. Put the audience first, and you’re guaranteed to feel confident and be successful..
Does your head trash get in your way of being a powerful, confident public speaker? If so, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss them with me personally!