I do a lot of public speaking and there’s no arguing that I’m pretty good at it. I hit the stage as a 30-something somewhere in 2006 and it was instantaneous: I loved the stage and the stage loved me back. It came naturally to me, so I play to that strength. It’s why I come off as someone who is very comfortable on stage or in front of the camera. I just love it.
I know a lot of you out there aren’t always the biggest fans of public speaking. In fact, it’s probably the number one fear for many people. Whether it’s a keynote or a short presentation, it takes a lot of nerve to get up in front of an audience. I think the problem is that a lot of you are overthinking it. So, here are a few tips to help build some confidence and make public speaking feel natural to you.
1. Stick to what you know
There’s a really good reason why some of my keynotes are so good and it’s because I stick to what I know. The reason why I don’t need slides and why I’m so comfortable being in front of the camera on The #AskGaryVee Show is because I stay in my lane.
The problem arises when people try to fake the funk: they try to talk about topics or claim they’re experts before ever doing anything. So what happens is that when they get up on stage and try to talk about their execution, they get stuck. It’s why I don’t feel comfortable answering questions about topics like foreign-policy or Bitcoin. Whether on stage or in front of the camera, I’m very transparent about not talking about something I don’t know.
As long as you stick to your personal experience and expertise, you can have the confidence to go up and talk about your insights. So long as you’re a practitioner of what you preach, you’ll be able to voice your opinion eloquently because it’s backed up by your executions.
2. Walk into the room with humility
If you’ve been to or have listened to any of my keynotes, you probably know that I always try to get a read of the room to see how many people already know who I am. I usually ask them to “raise your hand if you don’t know who I am.” I assume that 90% of the room doesn’t (and I am always humbled by the 10% that do). Why do I do this? Because I want to take that few seconds to take the temperature of the room. I want to get a feel for the audience’s grasp on what I’m about to talk about. I want to see what their experience is and what context that have about me or the topic I’m about to talk about.
Here’s the thing: the world is big. There’s a lot of stuff out there and you can’t assume what the audience knows or doesn’t know. Whether you walk in and you feel like you’re in over your head or you feel you’re overqualified on the topic, stick to what you know and be humble about it.
3. Communicate the way you’re most comfortable with communicating
Another good reason why I don’t like using cue cards of slides is because I’m just not a good reader. It never comes naturally to me and I’m not going to start trying now. Even reading my kids a bedtime story feels intimidating. One look at a copy of Good Night Moon and I’m a mess.
I would be crippled if I had to read cue cards. But, if you like the idea of cue cards or if having slides to lean against is natural to you, then do that. You have to know how you best communicate and use that to your advantage. Make sure that you’re giving the presentation in the most organic way possible. If that means clicking through slides, or standing with notes at a podium, or just winging it onstage, then who am I to say not to do it? Make it feel natural because it is natural.
P.S. The single biggest reason people are concerned about public speaking is because they worry what other people think of them. The quicker you start learning how to fix that issue and be comfortable with yourself, you become a much better public speaker. Heck, you’ll become a much better and happier human being.