I had my first public speaking gig in a while. I was to stand on stage and deliver a seminar on Radical Entrepreneurship and Leading with Brilliance.
I coach entrepreneurs as well as actors to perform with passion, so it was time to walk my own talk.
I was excited and unafraid by the prospect. I love performing. It’s in my blood. I’d been an actress for years. And through what feels like a lifetime of constant humiliation, setbacks and slaps in the face, I have grown a pair of balls. I can do this.
Except, I didn’t. At least, not at first.
How could someone as experienced as me stumble over my words?
Outwardly I was still cool as a cucumber. I got through my content and spoke clearly enough, albeit at breakneck speed.
Internally however I was having a mini crisis. I couldn’t breath and my left leg decided to shake horribly.
I was convinced my performance sucked.
Truth is, my performance felt much worse than it actually was. Many people congratulated me on an inspired delivery and others emailed me with their gratitude.
But I learned something big that day. It’s a lesson that has since transformed my public speaking from pain to joy (almost).
The first lesson is to become radically self-aware in the present moment.
Once we become self-aware, we can start to narrow the gap between our inner, more truthful reality and our false facade. We can take a deep breath, relax the body and speak from a place that is far more believable. When we do that, we demonstrate our passion. It feels liberating because we no longer have to hide.
But being self-aware is only one part of the story. We also have to put our attention on the audience. We need to both connect to ourselves as well as observe our audience so we can start figuring out how best to serve them. What value can you bring to them in this moment now? What do they most need? And how are you going to meet their needs? And can you do all this whilst staying in tune with yourself and keeping yourself calm and present?
This is the power of peak performance where we focus on both the internal and external, and have no time for debilitating self-consciousness.
When you can do that, you forget your nerves. You stop overthinking the moment. You only care about whom you are talking to and how you are going to enrich their lives. And you care so much that passion is your only gear.
When we pitch with passion and empathy, we draw people to us. This is what convinces people to partner with us.
The sad fact is that many of us fail to speak from this authentic place.
Because passion takes guts.
It requires us to admit that we care. We need to become vulnerable.
Few of us want to do that. It’s exposing. So few have the stomach. We’d rather pretend that we’re cool.
I messed up my talk because I refused to be vulnerable – at first. I acted cool, polished, scripted. Yes I’m great at winging it, but it felt wrong. I want to add real value. My integrity matters more than being fake. And I know deep down that authenticity is the only driver of long-term business success. It’s what gives you the credibility and charisma to draw the right people to you.
Luckily, at one point I remembered that I am better than this. I stopped mid sentence, took a deep breath, put down my script and decided to trust myself. I started to speak as me, with all my knowledge and wisdom, and without the automated delivery. My speech took off and I got a bit of a standing ovation. Well I saw 5 people stand up! That’s enough for me.
So I encourage you to drop the polished facade and speak as yourself. Speak with your true passion and say what you think. And never ever emote or feign an emotion if you don’t feel it. It is far better to simply say your words without embellishment. You will sound more credible and less like a bad actor from a B-rate movie.
When you can drop the script and step into the vulnerabilty of the unknown, you will pack an enormous punch. This punch will set you apart.
It takes balls of steel to be vulnerable.
Are you ready to take it on?