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 things change when you have to speak to larger groups, high-stakes audiences or groups of people you don’t know as well. That’s when your heart starts to race, your palms get sweaty, your face flushes red, and worst of all is the stream of self-defeating “what if” scenarios that start to race through your mind.
What if I draw a blank?
What if I do something wrong?
What if they don’t like me?
What if I don’t sound like an expert?
What if I can’t answer their questions?
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. It’s just four little words, but they’re the secret to speaking with complete confidence. 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, digesting its meaning.
“Here’s the key,” I explained. When you give any presentation, your focus should be on customer service. Your primary responsibility and goal is to ensure that the audience has the best experience possible. Is your topic important? Is it interesting? Do you love it? Help them understand why, and share that passion with them.”
I told her, “Don’t be afraid to make eye contact. Each and every person there wants to feel like you’re talking to them personally. Like they’re the only person there. Look at each person with that goal in mind, to let them know that they matter to you. It makes them feel like they’re part of the event, and that’s critical.”
I could see that she was processing what I was telling her, so I continued. “Think about it: 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 from you 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 instantly felt 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 being perfect, 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’ll find a confidence and level of connection you never imagined possible.
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!