So many people shudder at the thought of public speaking. And yet almost EVERYONE has to do it in one form or another. Whether it’s presenting in a board room or hosting a meeting with the parents of the kids that you coach, this is an essential skill that we should be leaning into rather than ignoring it.
I often have people say things to me like, “Wow, you’re so comfortable public speaking for your age. How do you do it?” I always tell them the same story.
I hated public speaking when I was younger. I hated formally performing of any kind. Yes, I was a bit of a class clown with my hockey friends and always making jokes but for some reason that felt different. In fact, one of my biggest regrets in life was not singing to my grandpa before he passed away because I was too nervous. And then out of nowhere, everything changed. In 2010, one of my very best friends, Elizabeth Turgeon, died when we were 18 years old. She was in a car accident so it was sudden to say the least.
I considered Liz a sister and felt like a part of her family. When her mom asked me if I would give the eulogy, I didn’t think, I just said yes. Because she needed me and I wanted to do anything I could to help during that terrible time. There were literally hundreds of people in the crowd. That’s more people than I get paid to speak in front of today. But it didn’t phase me one bit because giving that speech had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with Liz, her family and everyone in that room searching for comfort. Since that day, I have been comfortable public speaking and overtime I’ve been able to identify reasons why that I hope will help you.
FOCUS ON THOSE WHO NEED TO HEAR YOUR MESSAGE
If you are being asked to give a speech or a presentation, odds are that it’s because someone believes that you have value to offer. When you change your perspective and recognize that people are asking to you to speak to hear you rather than to judge you, you begin to have a sense of commitment to helping those people and providing them value. It becomes bigger than you or your nerves and gives you a sense of empowerment to say what you have to say with confidence.
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH
As you can imagine, when I was giving Liz’s eulogy, it was probably the most pure and genuine string of words I had ever said up until that point. When you are speaking from the heart and not trying to be anyone other than yourself, the words flow much more freely and everyone in the audience believes in what you’re saying. This ultimately increases your impact that you’re able to make which is really the reason you’re there in the first place.
HAVE A CONVERSATION
Lastly, just have a conversation. It sounds so simple but seriously, it is that simple. When I give a talk in front of a large group of people anymore, I usually just remember 3-4 interview questions and THAT’S IT. When you think of your speech in terms of questions, it becomes much more conversational and flows better without stressing about memorizing words on a page. For example, I usually start my speeches by internally asking myself, “What got you into hockey?” and then I just answer to the crowd. It feels way more natural than when I’m trying to read from a script and it sounds better to the audience too.
The other aspect of this, which I know will be a little controversial, is to speak how you would when having a conversation with your friends even if that includes a few umms and uhhs. I know, everyone always talks about eliminating word clutter and it’s definitely something to strive to get better at, but not at the expense of sacrificing the genuine feel of your talk. I personally prefer a few umms if the speaker looks relaxed and is clearly conversing with me rather than reciting something cookie cutter from memory that makes me sound like I’m listening to an Alexa or Siri telling me what the weather will be today.
Long story short, don’t let public speaking scare you. You will have to do it whether you like it or not but these tips can help make it a little less stressful. I hope this was helpful! Please leave a comment below if you liked it and I hope you have a wonderful day!