Public speaking. It can be one of the most terrifying things to encounter. Getting up on that stage, suddenly you have flashbacks to that fifth grade book report that you definitely didn’t prepare for.
But public speaking can also be fun as hell. I love it. I really freaking love it. And I’m hoping I can make you love it too.
The benefit of doing keynotes or talks is enormous. You can reach new audiences you might not have encountered. Build your credibility. Get your ideas out there in a longer format. And through doing them, you might also meet some really awesome people, and learn a bit more about yourself. If you have the opportunity, or even just the interest, pursue it. It’s a great experience.
First things first: you may have to wait for that nice paycheck. You need to show that you can get an audience first, because you don’t get paid if you’re not bringing any value, right? The organizers want to make sure they are getting a bang for their buck. If you’re not that well known yet, you may have to speak for free. But if you truly love it, and believe in it, you’ll see the value in doing work for free.
When you get that first keynote, prep can be a lot of different things. Maybe you need minimal time to get everything together. Or maybe you need to rehearse it a few times with someone.
How do I prepare? Well, my methods might be unconventional, but they work.
“You’re only as good as your last talk.”
Eight minutes before I take stage, I’m not doing anything special. I’m just focusing on normal everyday stuff. I’m checking email. I’m joking with a friend. I act as if the talk isn’t about to happen. Try this out for yourself; you might find calm in just doing everyday activities.
Then, six minutes before, I get into a weird place. I become extremely focused, a boxer about to hit the ring. But I’m not going over notes. I’m not mouthing anything to myself. Those last minute tendencies people have to want to fix something or change something are destructive. Push them away. Go with the plan. It will psych you out, and nobody wants to be their own cause of destruction. Leave it all behind. You’re ready.
So what happens when you hit the stage?
Well, weird shit starts to happen. I look at the audience as my enemy, and yet my child at the same time. Seriously. There is a strange mix between these two emotions that happen when you really get into a talk. I love them for being there and supporting me and being interested in what I have to say, but I also really want them to get the message, to leave with a new understanding of things. And that is a powerful feeling. That is what public speaking is really all about. You want to convey something with nothing but your own voice. You don’t want to seem crazy, but emotion is a good thing. It’s strong. It’s convincing. You’re allowed to get excited about your idea.
And never forget this: you’re only as good as your last talk. Even if you’ve had a long career of public speaking, seven or eight years for me, none of that matters. The second you take that stage, you’re basically wiping the slate clean. People only remember your last at bat. Make it an amazing one.
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Oh and guess what? I’m about to crush SXSW with a keynote I’m doing with Jack Welch. Hope to see you there. 🙂