Public speaking – you know things like networking, running workshops, presenting at an industry conference or giving talks at local business groups – is a great way to promote your business and cut through the noise that is social media. Yet, lots of smart, accomplished, creative entrepreneurs and service providers dread the task. Some even dread talking about public speaking.
I used to be that person.
Twenty years ago I took a stand up comedy class because I thought it would be a fun way to get over my fear and dread of public speaking.
And while I won’t share the rest of the story in this newsletter (give me a call and I’d be happy to tell you the rest!), suffice it to say that 20 years is a long time, and I’m happy to report I no longer have a debilitating fear of public speaking.
Do I still get nervous? Absolutely. But I’m no longer controlled by fear.
Public Speaking & the Solo/Small Business Owner
Lately, I’ve been talking to creative entrepreneurs and professional service providers about their own fears and dread around public speaking. These fears include everything from feeling uneasy in the spotlight, to being an introvert, to not having anything important to say (a-hem, call me about this, too, we ALL have something important to contribute).
Look, I get it because I’ve felt and thought the same things. I spent the last 14 years working through my own speaking anxieties so I could not only feel more comfortable, but be more effective in a variety of face-to-face settings like networking, formal presentations, hosting events, leadership roles, etc.
And I’m still on the journey.
The thing is, most of the people I meet today have no idea how much I struggled through this work. They either don’t know or don’t believe me.
The Struggle Is Real
See, when I started my public speaking journey in 2004, the iPhone, YouTube and Facebook (as we know it today) hadn’t yet been invented. And digital cameras were just starting to climb in popularity.
Which means I have no video (i.e, social proof) of my early days developing my speaking skills. You know, the days when my heart raced, cheeks turned red, body shook and I spoke super fast in order to 1) get it over with and 2) share all my knowledge. And stories? They weren’t on my radar yet either. So I put people to sleep with all of my data and bullet points.
And I recently shared my experience via an email exchange with a colleague about my last post on making a good impression when you speak. And I got so fired up!
- Being an introvert does not mean you can’t enjoy or be good at speaking.
- Feeling nervous doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you (it’s normal and natural to feel nervous! I always get nervous. It shows you care.)
- Feeling comfortable speaking doesn’t mean you’re good at speaking.
- Taking one class doesn’t mean you have it all figured out.
- Speaking is not something ONLY extroverts do (please, don’t get me started on this!)
Make the Commitment to Speak with Courage
Over the years I’ve been asked more times than I can count, “Can anyone become a better speaker?” To which I always answer yes, as long as they are committed to the work.
I’ve committed my life to improving the way I speak and communicate. Because I want my message heard. Because I treasure business and personal relationships. And perhaps most importantly, because using my voice in positive ways for others gives my work purpose.
It takes a long term commitment to speak with courage. So, if this sounds like you, and you are tired of missing out on opportunities, losing access to clients, having your message misunderstood because of your speaking skills, then listen up. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Even if your hands shake and your heart races, you can learn to speak with courage so that you can use speaking as a tool to promote your work. Here is he hard truth of what it takes:
- It’s not about you. Look, if your inner dialogue tells you anything other than, “Let’s figure this out. You got this!” then you need a new set of beliefs. Here is what I tell all of my clients (a lesson I learned the hard way): “Speaking isn’t about the speaker, it’s about the value the speaker brings.” Can you see public speaking as an act of service?
- Like who you see when you look in the mirror. If you don’t think your voice is worth sharing or hearing, how can you expect anyone else to think so? The relationship you have with yourself is the foundation for all other relationships. Do you like who you see in the mirror?
- Know and own your value. Impostor syndrome creeps in when we are out of alignment with our vision, values and what we believe. Quiet the noise and tune in to your voice. What value do you bring?
The Bottom Line: Say Yes to You
Public speaking is SO MUCH MORE than what we typically think about when we think about public speaking. To speak with courage means…
- Using your voice in powerful ways that can improve people’s lives or make business easier for them.
- Sharing your ideas, knowledge, your story, not for your sake but because it’s valuable to others.
- Bringing ideas to life and unlocking opportunities.
- Learning and discovering who you are.
- Saying yes to what lights you up.
For me? That meant, in addition to shifting my whole business model, enrolling in voice lessons and living out my childhood dream to be a singer (And I pay good money to live that dream. But that’s another story.)
Believe it or not, the more you speak and express what’s inside of you, the less stress and angst you feel. Because you take control of your fear instead of letting your fear control you.
Do you have what it takes to speak with courage?
Your turn to talk to me
- What gets you fired about your work?
- In what ways have you been courageous in business?
- Do you dread public speaking? (it’s ok!)
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Ready to speak with courage in all types of settings? Attend an upcoming workshop or event where you can learn and practice skills in relaxed, productive settings. Learn more about upcoming events.