Hello again Natasha!!!!
First of all, thank you.
It’s a relief to know I’m no longer twitchy. Because while I look natural and nerve-free now, there was a time I used to umm, err, and sweat my way through presentations.
As you probably know, fear of public speaking is top of people’s list. Death is number two.
“This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy” (joked Jerry Seinfeld)
We’re illogically terrified of public speaking.
But here’s what I know:
Nerves, fear, stress and feeling self-conscious are normal.
The question is, what to do when these feelings emerge?
Do we run from them and avoid public speaking altogether OR do we face them?
Those are the only two choices.
We either run from the fear or we face it. Many choose to run.
It’s safer. You never have to worry about making a mistake or people judging you or losing your train of thought while ALL EYES ARE ON YOU.
So why choose to face it?
It’s a personal decision and it comes down to whether you say yes to this one question: Do you want to?
Once upon a time, the idea of public speaking made me shake, panic and hash out every insecurity I ever had: People will reject me. They won’t like me. I’ll make a fool out of myself.
But under all those fears, I had a desire to be heard. A desire to share my passions. To connect with people. To spread my ideas. To bring people together. To be BIGGER than my fears.
So, I did it. Even though I was terrified.
My first talk was dominated with sabotaging thoughts: “How do I remember what I need to say! What if I forget! What if I don’t make sense! What if I lose track! What if! What if!!!!”
I memorised my script and regurgitated it on the day.
It was an out of body experience. I wasn’t really present. I went through the motions.
When it was done, I was like “what happened? It’s over?”
I wished I could have been cool, calm and collected.
But the sensation of standing in front of people was too new. I needed to get used to that sensation.
(Plus, who slays it the first time around?)
After the talk, I had this feeling of wanting to do it again, only better. So I did. And I kept doing it until the sensation became less intense.
Until I could slow down and connect with people.
(Pro tip: Slowwwwwwwwww down)
I occasionally still panic before public talks, but I do it anyway.
That’s the key.
To move through discomfort.
Find pockets of stillness.
I treat talks as spiritual practice. Less mind, more heart.
Less needing to have all my shit together, more unflinchingly owning my imperfections.
As to seeming natural?
The spotlight amplifies what’s already there. So if you’re struggling to be yourself in front of a crowd, where else do you struggle? What’s stopping you from expressing who you are? Can you give yourself permission to show a little more of who you are in all areas of your life?
Maybe find groups or people who you can be completely yourself around?
It’s a process of peeling back layers.
For myself, I realised the people I admire are real, raw and unpolished.
Glamour doesn’t attract me, honesty does. Vulnerability. I want to experience a person’s humanness. I don’t want their best and most rehearsed presentation. I want their truth. Their story. Their complexity.
People like Maya Angelou, Cheryl Strayed, Amanda Palmer and Glennon Doyle.
These women have touched my life with their honesty.
And so, truth has become my measurement for success.
I’ve had to work on that. I had to find courage. Writing, meditation, reiki and coaching have helped with the process.
Mark Twain said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything” and it applies to public speaking. And storytelling. When we present and share our knowledge as a story, it becomes easier. Natural. Effortless.
Presenting well is about connecting to that energy.
That’s why I use this meditation before every public talk.
It helps me to get into a bold, open and trusting headspace – it allows me to be myself, feel present and speak from the heart. Try it! Seriously, try and and let me know how it goes.
So to summarise:
Fear is natural. Try meditation to clarify your intentions and overcome nerves. Keep practicing public speaking, it gets easier with time. Find ways and places and people that nurture your sense of truth… the more comfortable you become with who you are, the more you can bring that to all you do.