5 Things I Learned In Front of a Crowd of 300 People –
As I stood inside the dark hallway to the right of the stage my palms we’re sweaty, my heartbeat was elevated, and my mind was a bit hazy. I was about to pitch a business idea to a crowd of 300 people. And while I’ve spoken in public before, this was the first time I had spoken on a stage this big.
As they called my name, I walked on the stage and started. Over the next 4 minutes, I did my best to be calm, engaging, and to express myself clearly. By the time I walked off stage I had learned a lot. Sometimes it only takes a few minutes to gain a wealth of information.
Now I know that public speaking is huge fear for many people. And while it’s not something that terrifies me, I thought I’d share a little bit about what I learned. As well as some things you could try to face your fear of public speaking with courage and calmness.
Here is what I learned:
1. The Most Important Thing Is To Care –
While there were lots of things about my speech that weren’t great, it didn’t matter because I was talking about something that I cared about. The pitch I gave focused on helping people change their lives using the power of habits. In addition, I think that because this topic really mattered to me I was able to talk with more passion and focus.
But what if what you have to talk about doesn’t matter to you? Of course, there are times when you have to present for your job that aren’t your passion. In these cases, I’d encourage you to find something about what you are saying that does matter. Maybe it’s what will happen if you do a good job or maybe it’s just about connecting with the people in the room.
2. Just Have Fun –
One of the biggest barriers I faced as I prepared for this event was the temptation to take things too seriously. Every time I got too serious during practices, I would talk to fast and stop smiling.
Instead, I found that when I relaxed and just enjoyed what I was talking about, I was able to talk in a calm steady pace. If you ever have to talk to a big group, take the subject seriously but yourself lightly. It doesn’t matter if what you are talking about is neuroscience or nerf balls a speaker who is having fun is much more fun to watch.
3. Don’t Prepare For Perfection
This is a point I’ve made before on my blog, but I’ll make it again. Too often, we plan for everything to go right and then when something goes wrong we are left confused and lost.
During my presentation, the slides got so off track that they were basically meaningless. But instead of letting this bother me, I continued talking like they didn’t even exist. The reason I was able to do this was that I knew that something was bound to go wrong. And so, I was prepared to talk without a net.
Too often, when we want to do a good job our strategy is to plan and plan until we get things perfect. Instead I’d encourage you to prep as if everything else failed and it’s just you and a mic.
4. Smile –
It’s a small thing but one thing I’ve learned again and again in life is that smiling makes everything better. Even sales people at call centers are told to smile because it improves their sales.
If you have to talk and you are scared to death, the smallest but best thing you can do to keep things light is to smile while you talk. You may not be able to hide your embarrassment, but at least you’ll seem amused by it.
5. Be Yourself –
More than anything else great speakers are authentically themselves. Now of course this isn’t’ the same self that sits around with their families on thanksgiving making jokes about uncle John. Nevertheless, even when you are putting on a show you can let yourself shine through.
One thing that I intended in my presentation was to let my true voice and self shine through. I wanted to do a good, job but I didn’t want to become someone else to do it.
I knew that if I wanted to grow in my ability to speak and share my dreams with others I had to show up as my true self. Learning to speak from my heart and do it well means I can spread my dream to more people in a much more effective way.