People tell me that I make it look easy.
It, being public speaking.
People ask me how can I stand and talk in front of a crowd and keep them engaged. How do I keep my cool when there’s conflict and tempers or agenda’s in the room?
My secret: Be myself.
Show off your vulnerability
No. I’m not saying you have to get naked – although for many people, that might be the preferred choice over public speaking.
Whenever we decide to really stretch our comfort zones, step out of our box, or try something new – it is not uncommon for fear to take over as a prominent emotion. Outside of our norm, we fear vulnerability.
Here’s an example:
You’ve been sitting at home feeling like you need to make a change: You want to join a gym to build strength and maintain your health. You’ve thought about it, you’ve googled it and done some research. Eventually, you say “Damn-it, let’s do this already!” and you decide you’re going to go ahead and do something about it.
You pack your gym bag and head to the gym. You’re about to walk through the door, when panic sets in.
“OMG. Was this really a good idea? Will I hurt myself? Will I embarrass myself? Do I belong here?”
For a lot of people who visit the gym for the very first time, they don’t even make it to the doors before panicking. And whether you’re one of the ones who make it through the front door or if you stay in your car and just head back home, it is an experience that comes with anxiety, stress, and fear.
Fearing the Unknown
You are not alone; many others have walked in your shoes. A study cited in the Daily Mail revealed that over 75% of women in the UK put off exercise in fear of other people’s judgement. 75 perc
There are plenty of others who have experienced similar fears of unfamiliar gym settings, and the possibility of injury and judgement. Maybe they’re intimidated by other people in great shape or professional fitness trainers who might judge them.
Just like you, they’re scared of being vulnerable.
Public speaking is downright terrifying for some; for others, it produces intense anxiety. Even the best and brightest spirits – leaders you admire, those who might be considered experts and excellent at their craft – can hit a wall of fear before they stand up and share.
It’s kind of like when you start going to the gym: you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone, which can be weird and uncomfortable.
We speak in public all the time though. I mean, you have casual conversations with people almost every day, right? But as soon as we feel like we are ‘presenting’, or ‘selling’ and we open our mouths to say something, fear creeps in. You start wondering and worrying about what others might think of you, if they’ll agree with what you’re saying, or if you’ll convey your message right. You question whether they’re even listening to you, if they think you’re boring, if they might be judging your tone and what you’re wearing. You ask yourself: can they tell I’m nervous? Do they want to leave? Am I awful at this?
The list of fears anyone has around public speaking is usually longer than anything they actually want to say.
In a brilliant TED talk titled “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brené Brown says the best way to overcome this fear is by “leaning into the discomfort.” For over six years, she researched and studied what people are fearful of across the United States (people are people and I believe her results hold true for those of us outside of the USA too) and wrote about it. The root cause of vulnerability is shame. Whether we’re talking about your fear of the gym or public speaking, they share the same root: a shame of being disconnected from the group and being seen as something different than what they expected of you.
There’s also the fear that you won’t live up to your own expectations for yourself.
Vulnerability has a negative connotation in our culture. It is something that we all try to suppress or numb. Brené found that when we numb the vulnerability we are feeling, we end up suppressing all our emotions equally. We can’t choose which emotions to block out.
To the people that overcome their fears though, Brené discovered that they treated it as something beautiful. They approach their fear knowing full well that they may fail for one reason or another, and yet they survive. They take on that challenge and leave with a large exhale.
Be real about what you say
For me, public speaking is always about connecting with the people I’m talking to. And it’s my belief, whether you’re talking to just one other person or you’re communicating to one hundred, your content needs to be relevant to your listener.
That’s how you connect with them.
Humans are hard-wired for connection. We want to feel wanted, needed, and understood in a relationship with other people. We want to be a part of something bigger.
We want to belong.
When you’re speaking, regardless of the group size, it should reflect a normal conversation – your normal, not someone else’s. When you speak from your heart, you’re being honest with yourself and everyone else. That’s powerful stuff! Every time I get to be in front of an audience or when I’m chatting 1-1 with my clients, it’s an opportunity to connect and share information I truly believe will help them. Sure, on a bigger stage I exaggerate my movements and play with my voice projection for effect, but the content is real, raw and me. Hence, I am authentic.
Being authentic will encourage people to listen.
Use Authenticity to Engage Your Audience
In a heartbeat, your audience knows if you’re not being real.
It’s imperative you-BE-you. I have to be myself, because I don’t know how to be anyone else. Trust me, I’ve attempted to imitate someone else’s style and it always turned into a disaster. Instead, I learn from others and marvel at their style and finesse. I watch what they do, and apply what I like towards delivering my own authentic style.
The truth is: As much as I admire the woman, I couldn’t present like Brené Brown if I wanted to. I’m not her.
So lean into your natural speaking style and say what’s on your mind. Let yourself stretch and risk not getting it right. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or share a story – we get it, you’re human. Being real is what will make the whole process of communication easier, more fun, and enjoyable for you and your audience of any size.
You, my friend, have a voice and I want you to be able to use it loud and proud, whenever you want to.
You don’t have to talk as much as I do, but if you ever want to – lean into your authentic self, be brave and let your voice be heard.
I’m Janice Otremba, a professional speaker, facilitator and coach who specializes in stress management, health and wellness, personal growth and life balance. Let’s kick your butt into gear with simple, sound advice for beating burnout and powering up your happy. Book a free 15-minute consultation call with me to get started!