In the last two years I’ve given public talks and workshops to groups ranging from 10 to 300 people about topics on Millennials, marketing and employee retention. The most popular presentation being the Digital PR at Brighton SEO, which has received almost 20,000 views in 4 months, making it the most viewed presentation at the conference.
A colleague recently asked me how do I prepare and go about obtaining confidence in public speaking.
Most importantly, I will always talk about issues I personally care about, the things that naturally fire me up. I would never talk about something I don’t believe into in order to represents someone else’s agenda. That would make me really uncomfortable and when I’m uncomfortable, I’m nervous. Staying true to myself has always been my No 1 thing.
Even though I want to perform well and do my best, I don’t aim to get every single person in the room to agree with everything I say. That would be a very unrealistic expectation. Also, my opinions tend to be controversial, bold and a little crazy; some people like it and some people don’t and thats okay.
Nobody knows the absolute truth, so I’d rather talk about things not many people talk about to broaden the view and shed a light on more possibilities. Frankly, I find conventional industry talk boring and I hate wasting people’s time.
The objective for me is to explain my point of view without trying to impress or necessarily get people on my side. If the latter was the case, it’d make me really nervous.
We get nervous when we aspire to something we can’t control, like trying to change how people think. That is a big aspiration and if that is your goal for a presentation, no wonder you get nervous.
If, on the other hand, you reward an effort rather than achievement, you can relax and put less pressure on yourself. You are more likely to perform better if you go in smiling and relaxed rather than worrying about the outcome.
At every presentation, I know that I will do my best, even if at the time it goes wrong and the talk is not quite up to scratch, it will still be the best I can do AT THAT TIME of giving the talk. I cannot do better then what I am capable of in that given moment.
Not doing your best is when you’re dishonest, deliberately lazy, indifferent or devious. Most people aren’t like this. So not doing your best is when you deliberately not trying.
Final relieving thoughts
There is one intelligent way to gain confidence in public speaking: do your best.
Don’t have any expectations or goals, just enjoy yourself and do your best. This mindset will do your ego a favour. By being a bit kinder and more forgiving to yourself, you won’t have to deal with consequences of not achieving your goals.
By giving your best, you will start seeing everything as an opportunity and because there won’t be any goals or set expectations, you will be able to deal with consequences, and when you can deal with consequences, there will be no fear.
The common cause for lack of confidence is when you have unrealistic image of yourself. You don’t put yourself forward because you are afraid you will say something stupid or do something humiliating.
Why would someone even have these fears? We believe we have to be perfect and because it’s impossible to live up to this, every move you make becomes terrifying.
In reality, every human makes mistakes continually and does something silly at times. Learning to accept the fact that you are human with flaws, is great relief.
Learning to laugh at yourself is even more wonderful. Self-importance is the least charismatic trait an intelligent person can have.
Also, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” during your Q&As. I did, and it was fine.