Over the last couple of years we’ve seen amazing opportunities open up to bloggers who are willing to embrace some of these mediums – but alongside the opportunities, I’ve noticed a rising tide of anxiety among some bloggers who while comfortable to put themselves out there on the internet through the written word are reluctant to jump in front of a camera or microphone.
For some the reluctance comes from lack of experience or skills, but for many of us it is fear that holds us back.
Speaking in public is often cited as the #1 fear that people have and this extends to many of these mediums.
My Own Struggle with Fear of Speaking in Public
As a 16-year-old, I took a class in public speaking that taught me a lot of the skills needed to construct and deliver a good talk. I learned that I could do it and that I even enjoyed parts of the process – but nothing in that class taught me how to deal with fear.
So for the next 10 years, whenever I needed to speak in public (which was a regular occurrence as I worked for a decade as a youth worker and minister in a church) I would feel a growing sense of dread as the time to present approached.
Fear would gradually creep in and would usually raise its head in the form of questions like:
- what if they don’t like me
- what if I look stupid
- what if I forget what I’m supposed to say
- what if they think I don’t know what I’m talking about
- what if I’m boring
I could go on… but I think you get the picture.
For a while there I tried to use this growing ‘fear’ as a motivating factor. It drove me to prepare extra well. I would spend days preparing even for a short talk so that:
- they did like me
- I didn’t I look stupid
- I didn’t forget what I’m supposed to say
- I did look like I knew what I was talking about
- I wasn’t boring
It got to the point that when I had to give a talk I would become consumed by it for days and even weeks. I would practice it 10, 20, 30 times over and over again – trying to perfect it – all driven by not looking stupid.
My talks ended up being ‘good’…. but the fear didn’t go away. In fact, at times it got worse and when I started to get asked to speak at bigger events I would sometimes say no simply because it got too much.
Something needed to change.
How I Reframed It
One day as I worked myself into a frenzy of fear in the days before another talk it dawned on me that I was being incredibly selfish.
All the ‘what if’ statements that I dwelt on were all about me and how I looked.
All of that preparation that I did for each talk was also all about me and how I would be received.
While on some levels this motivated me to prepare it was actually a massive destruction from what my focus should have been on: my audience.
I decided to combat the selfish negative questions I’d been asking myself with questions that forced me to think about my audience.
- Who will be in the audience as I speak
- How will they be feeling?
- What are their needs and struggles?
- What are their dreams?
- What is their pain?
Lastly I began to ask myself ‘how could this talk change their life for the better?’
A number of things immediately changed as I began to prepare for talks this way:
Firstly – the Fear started to Slip Away
I crowded out the negative self talk with talk that focused me in other directions.
Where I’d previously been focused upon myself and how I looked – I was now focused upon others.
Where I’d previously been focused upon ‘what if’ statements (things I couldn’t really control by the way), I had started focusing upon ‘what are’ and ‘what is’ statements.
Secondly – I prepared with different Intent
Previously I would spend many days on each talk preparing – but my preparation was all about looking polished, perfecting my delivery and finding the perfect words.
With the change of mindset I began to prepare with a whole different motivation. It became all about finding the best way to serve the audience.
I still put as much effort into the preparation process, but it became less about how it came across and more about how useful the information was, and how to craft it in a way to bring as many of the audience on the journey towards transformation as I could.
The preparation was less about getting a standing ovation or words of affirmation after the talk – and more about seeing people walk away ready to change their life in some way.
Thirdly – My Presentation came from a Different Place
As I began to think differently and then prepare differently I noticed that I also began to present differently.
As I let go of how I looked and focused more upon transformation in my audience I found myself speaking with more compassion and passion.
I would get up to speak not hoping to be polished and professional but hoping that what I had to say would change someone’s life.
Of course not every talk that I gave (or give) hits the mark – but I began to notice the way that my audiences responded to me changed. I got less ‘great talk’ comments and more ‘I felt like you were talking to me’ comments.
Audience members seemed to notice the shift.
Don’t Focus Upon What You’ll Get…. Focus on What You can Give
It’s so easy in the space we’re engaging in to focus upon the affirmation we’ll get from doing a Periscope or Youtube Video or Podcast or Blog post.
The ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘hearts’, smiley emoji’s and comments are all there staring in the face.
But as much as you possibly can – attempt to look past them to the fingertips behind the keystrokes and the human beings to whom those fingertips belong. Imagine their face and more so imagine who they are, what they feel, what they dream of, what they struggle with and who they are becoming.
Make that your starting place and I truely believer the content that you create will go to a whole new level.