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They say public speaking is the number one fear—even above death. But do you know where that supposed “fact” comes from?
It turns out it was popularized by a book written in 1977 citing a very unscientific research study.
While we debunk the number-one-fear myth in this episode, it doesn’t detract from the fact that public speaking can still be scary.
This episode is for you if you identify with any of the following:
- You’ve never spoken before but want to know what to expect for the future when you speak someday.
- You’ve been invited to speak and have a gig coming up soon.
- You’ve spoken in the past and want some refreshers on how to prepare, overcoming common issues, and how to get more requests to speak.
You’ll hear some very practical techniques for minimizing fear and hear me share absolutely everything I’ve learned about speaking.
I focus on preparing for your speech, how to practice, delivery, slides, how much time to allocate to your introduction vs. your message, what to do if you freeze, and how to prevent freeze ups from happening in the first place.
Highlights, Takeaways, & Quick Wins:
- Fear is a good thing—it focuses you.
- Talk to the people that are going to be in your audience beforehand, that way they’re not strangers anymore.
- The unknowns will get to you, so ask questions to find out the information you don’t know.
- Everyone has a message, even if you don’t know what that message is.
- It doesn’t matter if someone has said your message before—this is a new audience, new voice, new experience, and a new time.
- You should speak—you will grow as a person and you will learn by teaching.
- You’re not after memorization, you’re after confidence.
- Make sure you’re giving the audience the right cues on how to feel.
- Tell people up front who you are and why they should listen to you.
- The slides are there to enhance your message. The slides are not your message.
- Well-timed silence is just as important as the words you say.
- People that sound like they know what they’re talking about know the next four to six words they’re going to say.
- If you want the opportunity to speak, start positioning yourself as an expert in whatever you want to speak on.
- Drive home the important points. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.
- Real, relatable stories will win people over.
- The biggest mistake speakers make is making their talk about themselves.
- Tell your story to establish credibility, but then actually give some substance. What is the message? What is the takeaway? Don’t make it all about you.
Fear of Public Speaking
- 03:13 You’ve probably heard that public speaking is the number one fear. You’re probably wondering why the number one fear isn’t death. The fear of public speaking was popularized by The Book of Lists, written by David Wallechinksy in 1977. One of my favorite speakers and writers, Scott Berkun, who wrote, among other books, Confessions of a Public Speaker, debunks this myth by saying, “A team of market researchers asked 3,000 Americans the simple question, ‘What are you most afraid of?’ but they allowed them to write down as many answers as they wanted. Since there was no list to pick from, the survey data is far from scientific. Worse, no information is provided about who these people were. We have no way of knowing whether these people were representative of the rest of us.”
- 04:30 They basically asked people what they were most afraid of and since death wasn’t an option, they had them write down whatever they wanted. Maybe some people thought death was out of the picture and they needed to pick the thing they’re most afraid of while they’re alive. They wrote down their own answers, and that’s why Scott says it was far from scientific. Scott goes on to talk about how fear is a natural survival instinct. You’re standing in front of a bunch of people staring at you. He says there’s a primal, fear-response as a result. He says:
Fear is a good thing.
Fear focuses you.
- 05:27 Edward R. Murrow said, “The best speakers know enough to be scared…the only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly in formation.” You need to understand your body’s natural reaction to this—the sweaty palms, etc. You have to think to yourself, “Ok, this is a physical response to an apparent threat. This is a perfectly natural response.” The good news is, you’re not about to be eaten by lions, you’re not actually in danger. These people are for you, not against you. Therefore, you can safely ignore the body’s natural responses to this apparently fear or scary situation.
- 06:26 My number one tip for overcoming fear is to talk to the people that are going to be in your audience beforehand. Get to know them. Show up at the conference early or go to lunch with people that will be at your talk. That way they’re not strangers anymore, which is part of the fear. You’re speaking to a bunch of strangers, but if you meet them first, it’s not strangers that you’re speaking to. Show up to the venue early, get on the stage if you can with no one on it and no one in the audience, and just stand there. Take it all in and familiarize yourself with the place where you’re going to be speaking. If you can’t get there, then ask for photos or videos of it. Anything that will get your head in the game. Half the challenge is getting your head in the game. It’s the unknowns that will kill you. Fill in those gaps as much as possible.
- 07:35 Ask questions to find out the information you don’t know. A lot of people are asked to speak and they don’t do this. How many people are going to be there? What is the venue like? What is the screen like? Am I going to have a screen? What’s the size? What’s the resolution? What’s the microphone situation? At the conference I spoke at last year, they had a podium with a podium mic built in, so it’s clear you have to stand at the podium and deliver your talk. In the past, I’ve tried to memorize my talks, but this year, I figured I could use the notes on my laptop since I’ll be in front of the podium. It turned out that this year, the people before me were using wireless microphones. That changed things! I had to go back to my hotel room and practice everything to memorize it.
- 08:53 There’s some good things about going last and some good things about going first. If you’re the first person to speak, you get it over with and you can relax for the rest of the event. Otherwise, you’re there for a few days and you’re last, so it’s in the back of your mind. Maybe you’re dreading it or it’s taking up space because you have to memorize it, and not lose it for the duration of those few days. Also, if you’re last, you have the last say. You’re sending people out, so whatever you end with is the note people are leaving with and that’s a big responsibility. At the conference this year, I was the last one to speak, which meant I could observe the other speakers before and see what the situation was. In this case, I saw the microphone setup had changed and I needed to practice accordingly, but if I had asked ahead of time, I probably could have found that out. Try to fill in the unknowns as much as possible.
Is Speaking for You?
- 10:26 Should you keep listening to the rest of this episode, even if you don’t intend to speak? I think you should and here’s why:
Everyone has a message, even if you don’t know what that message is.
- 10:40 Some of you do and some of you haven’t discovered it yet, but I think everyone has a message. Sometimes, that message is something someone else has spoken before and arguably better than you could. It doesn’t matter if someone has said it before, this is a new audience, new voice, new experience, and most importantly: it’s a new time. Even if they’ve already heard it from you or from someone else in the past, they can hear it again (Related: e153 Magic of 7). It’s a new context and people need to hear things multiple times. You should speak—if you have an opportunity to, accept it. You will grow as a person and you will learn by teaching. You’re not just imparting what you’ve learned, you have to learn in order to teach. you’re going to be doing research around the topics you’re bringing to people and you’re going to grow as a person.
- 12:15 A lot of people don’t practice out loud. It seems obvious but a lot of people just look at their slides, read through their notes in their head, or mouth a few parts. You’ve got to rehearse the whole thing out loud. Do it in sections. You want to practice the transitions, which are the most difficult parts. You don’t need to practice the bullets, because you already know those things. Know your material but practice the transitions.
You’re not after memorization, you’re after confidence.
- 13:02 If you know the transitions between one section or slide to the next, that’s going to help you be confident. It doesn’t matter if you have every word memorized, if you’re confident, you’re going to remember the material because you know it. When you’re practicing at home, if you have dual monitors, you can set one up with what the audience will see and set the other one up with either notes or your next slide. If you don’t have dual monitors, you could do a split screen or only put up your notes. It comes in handy to get an idea of what the audience will be seeing.
- Stand Up
- 13:47 You’re not going to be sitting in front of the audience, so practice standing up with the remote. It’s like practicing piano, when you find a rough part in the song, you start practicing right before that point. You practice into the rough spot, you practice the rough spot, and then you practice out of the rough spot. If you only practice the area of trouble in isolation, it won’t do you any good. Once you get to that point in your talk, you’ll freeze up because it will trigger that memory of it being a bad spot for you. You have to practice it in context. Let’s say you get to the point where you freeze up and you don’t know what the next slide is or what you’re supposed to say on that slide. The best tip I have is to imagine a key word or phrase that will trigger what you’re supposed to say on every slide that you get stuck. Add those notes to your laptop, that way when you put up the slides, it’s not mirroring what everyone sees. Even if you’re walking around the stage and you get stuck, you can walk over to your laptop, look at the key phrase, and keep going.
- What to Do if You Freeze on Stage
- 15:32 Let’s say you didn’t have that or you froze up and even forgot that key phrase, either wing it or go to the next slide. The audience isn’t going to know what they missed, only you will. Maybe you had a good phrase you wanted to say, but if you didn’t get around to saying it, it’s not the end of the world. If you freak out and say something like, “Oh my gosh, I was supposed to say something really great here. I’m so sorry,” then people are going to feel really uncomfortable. People are going off of your vibe. They’re trying to get a sense of how they should feel, so when they see you feeling uncomfortable, they feel uncomfortable.
Make sure you’re giving the audience the right cues on how to feel.
- Video Slides
- 16:32 Think long and hard before doing video slides—this isn’t YouTube. These people came to see you. If there’s a video, it can be watched online. Why take up your precious, limited talk time? Think creatively about it. Instead of using video as a crutch, ask yourself, “How can I present this idea without forcing everyone to watch a video?” Not only are there AV nightmares around videos and the possibility of things going wrong, but it’s not fun for the audience. It feels out of context for them. The same thing goes for animated gifs! If you want to use gifs, that’s fine, but please practice it really well. The first time it might be funny, but let it play once then go to the next slide. A lot of times people put them up and it loops over and over again. The audience isn’t hearing what you’re saying at that point. They can’t focus on anything else, they’re just waiting for that gif to go away. You don’t want the gifs to be distracting. The slides aren’t your speech, they’re simply there to enhance it.
- 18:20 With speaking, videos, and podcasts, as far as personality and engagement, you want to be yourself plus 10%. What I mean is you need to be a more over-the-top, fully engaged version of yourself. It’s not going to come across boring, it’s going to simply not be a mind-numbingly boring version of you. If you’re normally not boring, your normal self on stage is going to look boring. On stage, things look a lot less interesting than they are so you have to overcompensate. You have to be extra bright and engaging. You’re going to feel like you’re flailing your arms about, but it’s just going to look mildly entertaining. On the podcast, I don’t talk how I normally would in a conversation with someone, but to you it sounds like I’m being mildly entertaining. I feel like I’m 10% to 20% more of myself because I’m overcompensating, purposefully. You’ve got to do that if you’re going to come across as mildly interesting.
Preparing for Your Speech
- 20:00 For the love of all things good, use Keynote, not PowerPoint. I made this mistake coming from a Windows background. I’d used PowerPoint in the past, so I used PowerPoint on my Mac instead of Keynote. When you use Keynote for the first time after using PowerPoint, you will cry. You will ask yourself, “Why couldn’t it have been this easy all along?” It could. It could have been this easy if you used Keynote. Step one: use Keynote. Yes, Keynote is a Mac application. Step zero is to get a Mac.
- Things to Bring When You Travel
- 20:49 Bring your laptop with the power adapter and all of your slides. As much as possible, use your own laptop because things can go bad otherwise. You could send someone your presentation but they don’t have the fonts or the transitions, or they could use PowerPoint. Let’s say you bring your own laptop and they’re supposed to accommodate you but it stops working or the venue doesn’t allow you to plug in your laptop, and you have to use the Windows XP computer in the back with PowerPoint. This is another good reason not to have videos in your slides, that way your whole talk isn’t ruined when the video doesn’t play or there’s no audio. Bring a USB Drive with slides. For all you know, this older computer isn’t connected to the internet so you couldn’t use email or Dropbox. Also, bring a PDF version of your talk, that way the fonts won’t be wrong. I’ve seen this before where you send someone your presentation file but they don’t have the right fonts, so the texts wraps weird or people can’t even read your slides because the text is off the screen. It sucks to have to fall back on a PDF version, but I’ve had to fall back on that before and it’s a lot better than the alternative.
- 22:34 Another thing you want to bring is a VGA Adapter. Do not assume the venue has any kind of adapters you could possibly need, because they won’t hesitate to fall back on their own computer and you don’t want that. Bring your own wireless remote. Sometimes they say they have them but don’t rely on it. Even if you can use your keyboard, practice with a remote if you have one. Some of them are more finicky or sensitive than others, so you want to make sure you have a good hand on it. Lastly, this isn’t for anyone, but if you want to you can bring your own microphone or recording gear. I’m not talking about plugging this into their sound system—let the venue handle that—but I’m talking about bringing your own Lavalier that you can clip to your shirt or a Zoom H4N. I took a wireless transmitter to my last conference I spoke at. You can bring something to record your own audio because a lot of the times, venues don’t do this, it’s poor quality, or you never see it again. If you want a recording of your own talk, you should do it yourself. Otherwise, you’re putting your trust in someone else and it might never happen.
- 24:12 They’re not going to prioritize this like you will. Even if you have someone in the audience using an iPhone to record you giving your talk, at least this way you have really good audio picking up from a few inches away from your mouth. Otherwise, an iPhone will pick up all the auditorium noise and echo, which is unusable.
- 24:50 First of all, don’t assume people know who you are. There’s nothing more tacky than someone coming in acting like you should know who they are because they’re a big deal. How awkward is it when you don’t? It speaks badly to their reputation and personality. It makes you not know if you want to get to know them. Don’t assume. Tell people who you are and why they should listen to you. You want to get them familiarized with you first. Secondly, don’t read your slides, because that’s the worst to watch. If it’s a good point, go ahead and read it but don’t only read your slides.
The slides are there to enhance your message.
The slides are not your message.
- 25:48 I like to time it so that people have time to glance at the slides and read them before they audibly hear me say something around the subject that gives it even more context. Take it from me and don’t do 150 slides. That’s what I did at my last talk and it was really hard to fit and memorize. I did it without looking at my laptop because I was walking around the stage. Alice asks, “How do you plan self-introduction to build trust in proportion to the length of the talk?” She’s asking how much time should you be allocating to the introduction vs. the whole talk. It’s going to vary depending on the degree to which you’re known by this audience. You also want to be thinking about the fact that if the talk is being recorded and going online. Even if this audience knows you, you have to consider that other people watching the video online don’t.
- 27:30 If you’re brand new and completely unheard of, I wouldn’t hesitate to allocate as much as 50% of your talk to your story and establishing credibility. It’s a tough balance, but ideally, I would love to get straight to the meat. I didn’t start this podcast by establishing my credibility or talking about my story. I don’t do that at the beginning of every podcast because this is my podcast. There’s 168 other episodes you can go back and listen to to learn about my story. The nice things about podcasts is 80% of the people listening already know who I am. I can get straight to the meat, but with a talk you can’t assume people know who you are.
Your advice could be great but if people don’t know who you are, then why should they listen?
- 28:55 If you can walk, walk. When I found out the conference had wifeless mics instead of the static podium mic, I was excited. I could have just stood in front of the podium, they told me that was an option, but I didn’t want to do that. It feels less engaging with the audience. Practice walking and if there are certain points you know you need to refer to your notes, practice when you walk to one side or the other. Don’t overthink it, but make a point to walk and make eye contact with everyone. Acknowledge the whole room or auditorium. Tell the balcony you see them. Don’t be afraid to say, “I see you over there.” Try to make eye contact with everyone, don’t just stare at one person. While you’re on stage, it feels like you can’t stop talking or silence is bad. If your throat gets dry, it feels like if you stop to get water it’ll throw everything off but you have to get water.
- 30:30 When you’re on stage in front of people, they see you drinking water and they know you need it. You probably have a slide up behind you while you drink it. There’s things for them to look at, so it’s ok. Maybe you could time it to where you just drove home a great point and you plan a water break right after that, because you already want that silence. Silence is really important and it’s something a lot of people are’t comfortable with.
Well-timed silence is just as important as the words you say.
- 31:16 Instead of “uhs” and “ums”, fill the gaps with silence, because it gives your words more weight. Terrance asks, “You talk about the power of silence and pauses. How do you slow your mind down when it’s racing 100mph so that you can deliver a more effective talk with an impactful pace?” Think ahead and give yourself a buffer if you’re going to fast. You don’t want to be totally caught up with your thinking to the point that you don’t know the next word that’s going to come out of your mouth. Think about it like a YouTube video—have you ever watched one with the buffering barely in front of the play head? You probably worried it was going to catch up and freeze. That’s what it’s like when you’re talking so fast you can’t even deliver an effective talk. You want to know the next words you’re going to say—that’s the difference between people that sound like they know what they’re talking about and people that sound like they’re bumbling around. Think ahead and allow yourself to slow down. It’s ok to talk slowly and have pauses. Give yourself a buffer.
People that sound like they know what they’re talking about know the next four to six words they’re going to say.
How to Get More Speaking Gigs
- 33:17 Justin asks, “I want to get more speaking gigs but I’m not sure how to.” Kyle asks, “How do you begin public speaking if it’s an interest but you haven’t stumbled into an opportunity?” Fist of all, don’t wait to stumble. Create that opportunity and to do that, you need to niche down. What do you want to talk about? What are you an expert in? People need to know why they should bring you out to speak and that should be immediately clear. If you’re going to be very general, then don’t be surprised that you’re competing with a bunch of other generalists. You’ve got to have the guts to niche down. The other thing is networking—you need to connect with other speakers and organizers. This is an investment. They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s worth getting close to the kind of people that have that kind of influence or decision making power. If someone organizes a conference you want to speak at, start having conversations with them. Hit them up on Twitter, email them, offer to help them, Skype with them, or write a blog post about their conference—get on their radar. Make friends with the other speakers that are speaking there. It’s all about networking.
- 35:03 For the most part, conference organizers aren’t Googling to find people to speak, either for hire or asking them to speak for free. Typically, they’re going to have the people they know and that are perceived experts in a niche to come speak. They’re trying to round out their speakers panel—“We have people talking on A, B, and C, so who could address D?” Let’s say this was a design conference: you’ve got the professional guy that speaks on getting paid for client work, an illustrator, a painter, someone who works at an agency, someone who started their own freelance company, etc. There’s different pockets people want to fill and if you’re very general, you’re not the clear option for filling in the last spot. If you’ve spoken in the past, you want to post those speaking videos. We’ve been spending days on putting together the footage and audio we got from the last conference I spoke at so I can put it out for, theoretically, thousands of people who weren’t at the conference, including people who will potentially hire me to speak in the future.
- 37:42 If you haven’t spoken before, put up videos of you talking. Instead of blogging, or in addition to blogging, turn your blog posts into videos. Demonstrate you can speak in front of a camera because that’s going to tell people that you’re likely to speak in front of an audience. This will establish you as an expert. Start positioning yourself as an expert in whatever you want to speak on. If you don’t have videos on your site right now talking about what you expect people to hire you to speak on, don’t be surprised if they’re not asking.
- 38:37 I read Confessions of a Public Speaker before my first speaking engagement a few years ago and it went very well and I owe it to that book. It gave me a ton of tips and things to prepare for and think about. I wouldn’t have known all of that stuff without that book, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
- 39:16 Steph asks, “If you find yourself stuck in a filler loop of “ums” and “uhs”, what are some ways you can mentally reset or get out of that head space?” If you get stuck, the best thing you can do is refer to your notes on the slides, prepare ahead of time, or even make a joke. Remember, people are looking to you for how to feel. If you get stuck, make a joke. Everyone is feeling it and the only way to break that tension is to acknowledge the awkwardness. Refer to your notes or skip to the next slide. Don’t worry about something you were going to say because people don’t even know you were going to say it. Charla asks, “How do you calm back down when you’ve gotten yourself hyper/stressed to the point that you sound crazy nervous?” If you’re going to too fast and you sound hyper, think 90% speed. Slow it down, enunciate, and speak clearly.
- 40:33 The point of talking in front of people is to share a message, so if you want to share a message, they have to hear it. You want to make sure they can understand what you’re saying. As long as you’re speaking clearly, go with that energy! You’re lucky if you feel like you’re hyper because that means you at least have the energy. Have you ever been on a subway, bus, or plane and looked at other peoples’ faces? They look almost angry but they’re not. They’re just sitting there thinking about their day and waiting to be entertained, and it’s the same with the audience.
The audience won’t be super energetic, they’re going to feed off your energy.
- 41:28 You have to be the one to bring the energy, which is really hard when you see an audience with a bunch of straight faces. They’re not trying to drag you down, they’re waiting to be entertained. If you’re bringing the energy and you feel like you’re hyper, it’s a good thing.
- 41:51 Alice asks, “Should you invest in long-term speaking or singing lessons if you don’t like the sound of your voice?” No one likes the sound of their voice. I hated my own voice and you might be thinking, “Oh no, your voice sounds great, Sean! You haven’t heard mine. I hate my voice.” Well, my voice sounded weird the first time I heard it recorded, just like everyone. No one likes the sound of their own voice because it’s different from what you hear in your head. You hear bone-conducted sounds because your voice comes from you’re own head and that’s how you hear it in addition to the sound that goes out into the airwaves and back into your ears. It feels more warm and bassy, so when you hear it back as a recording, it doesn’t sound as nice. You can practice it. Recordings from my voice from five years ago sound terrible, almost humorous! It was very quiet and monotone.
- 43:31 That’s how most of us sound when we don’t have practice enunciating and making out voices more sing-songy (Related: e127 Become a Better Podcaster and Speaker by Thinking Like a Singer). Practice your speaking voice and eventually you’ll like it more. You have to remember it doesn’t sound like that to other people. Other people aren’t used to your voice so it doesn’t sound weird to them. Even if you have a super weird voice, some people are haters and won’t like it, but that’s ok. You can talk however you want and not everyone is going to hate. Justin says, “Along with Terence’s question, how do you determine the pacing of the talk, how much to expound, and how much to repeat points?” As a speaker, you’re not going to feel like it’s necessary to repeat points because you know your material so well, but peoples’ minds wonder.
You have to drive home the important points, so don’t be afraid to repeat yourself.
- 45:10 If you’re a beginner, you’re actually going to have less than you think you have to say. You’re going to think you have a 20-minute talk prepared and it’s going to be over in 12 minutes, I promise you. You’re nervous, you’re going to forget some of those awesome points you wanted to make, and it’s going to go by way faster than you think. As you get more comfortable, as you speak, and as you write, you’re going to find you have more things to say and it’s going to be hard to calm that down and fit your talk in your allotted time. Give yourself more material. If you have a 20-minute talk, do what you feel would be a 25 to 30-minute talk, because you’re going to go through it a lot faster when you’re new. Cory asks, “Which is preferable, a general outline or a full recited script?” It’s like I say about a podcast—you want spontaneity and for it to feel natural. You don’t want it to sound like you’re just sitting there reading a script. Without structure, there’s chaos. You want to script most of it but intentionally leave room for expression.
- 47:02 Terrance asks, “Along the lines of Pablo’s question, have you ever had a very vocal hater in the audience? how should you deal with those?” I like Scott Berkun’s answer on how to deal with a heckler. Terrance asks, “Is there a go-to method or strategy for winning over your audience from the beginning? Is there a way to know if you’ve lost your audience? and, how do you get them back?” Real, relatable stories will win people over. Eye contact—if people aren’t looking at you and they’re looking at the ceiling, you’ve probably lost them. Acknowledge that you’ve lost them and, once again, reel them in with a story. People can’t resist stories. It’s like TV shows, you’ve got to know what happens.
- 50:47 Open a loop (Related: e159 Getting Started With Email Marketing). Open loops are where you introduce something but you don’t resolve it yet. You don’t tell the conclusion, you open it up and say, “I’m going to tell you more about that in a minute.” Terrance also asks, “What’s the biggest or most common mistake people make when speaking in public?”
The biggest mistake speakers make is making their talk about themselves.
- 51:48 People watch you speak to personally get something out of it. The most common mistake I see beginners making is focusing the talk on themselves—“Here’s what I did. Here’s a project I made. This is a client I worked for.” I could have gone to your website to see all of that. Why are you speaking here again exactly? What’s the point? Tell your story to establish your credibility, but then give some substance. Where is the takeaway? What’s the message? Pablo asks, “How do you deal with questions you don’t have an answer for?” Take it and turn it. Don’t make something up. Thank the asker and acknowledge that you don’t know. That’s ok! You’re immediately going to establish credibility this way. Someone who is trying to pull one over won’t acknowledge they don’t know something. Be honest and say you don’t know the answer.
- 56:16 This depends on your personality type, but if you’re a think-out-loud type people, you could try to work it out there on stage, which can be risky. The safer route, if you want to offer something is to say, “I’ll do some more thinking on it and get back to you. Meet me afterward, or keep an eye on my blog.” That way you’re acknowledging their question is valuable without doing them the disservice of making something up on the spot. Kyle asks, “What are some ways you can prepare your voice for public speaking on a consistent basis?” Podcasting is a great way to get used to speaking regularly. Practicing and drinking more water than you need to are also good ones. Look up tips on keeping your voice good from singers and apply that.
- 55:08 Kyle also asks, “Moving around the stage vs. standing: what is a good balance and why should you do either?” If you have the option to move, do it. If the lighting is very focused and people can’t see you, be aware of that and don’t move around too much. “The opposite of the hater question earlier. What if you want to gain respect from someone in the audience? How do you move past that mental hurdle?” Don’t worry about acceptance from your heroes. Reach the people where they are. You’re there for the audience, you’re not there for the one person you want to impress. If you’re reaching the people that are there to see you, you’re going to get respect from the person you want to impress or look up to. If you’re serving the audience, they’ll see that respect, and if they don’t, then they’re not worth trying to get respect from.
- 56:25 Pablo asks, “What are some specific actions you should take after the talk to ‘capitalize’ on the experience? Should you at all?” Meet with people and make yourself accessible. If you’ve seen a speaker that leaves immediately after the talk, you know how frustrating that is. As much as possible, try to give time to people. I respect a speaker who gives two or three people his full attention, even when the rest of us don’t get to talk to him. If I see him giving his attention to people, it’s something I notice and takeaway from that experience. It leaves me with a good impression of that person. After your talk, meet with people, make eye contact, and talk with them until they’re done talking (Related: e158 How to Get the Most Out of Conferences). Your eyes or you body language might be saying, “Your time’s up. There’s a big line.” Don’t communicate that the person should be done because you need to talk to other people that are more important. Give them all your time. If you only get to talk to one person, that’s fine. Everyone else will notice that. Steven asks, “Can you over-practice your talk?” Kyle follows up on this question with, “How do you avoid sounding robotic after practicing a speech for hours?” I practiced my first speech over 50 hours, over the course of weeks. More recently, I still spend 20 to 40 hours at least on every talk. I’ve heard that Zig Ziglar would practice for hours before every single talk, even though it was the same talk.
The best speakers still continue to practice to get better.
- 59:06 If you think, “I could do this just fine,” you could, but are you going to get better? It’s just like with everything—podcasting, piano, etc.—it’s the deliberate practice, not haphazard practice. If you play the same piano song all the time, you’re only going to get a little bit better. You’ll just practice the stagnation and imperfections. If you’re a podcaster with poor mic technique, a lot of filler words, and you’re not being intentional with your words, silence, or vocabulary, you’re not going to get better. You’re going to solidify those negative things. That kind of practice isn’t going to help you.
- 1:00:05 I don’t think you can over-practice, but at a certain point, practicing has diminishing returns. If you’re not focusing on the areas you need to improve, practice isn’t going to help you. Practice your transitions to avoid sounding robotic. Don’t worry about the exact words you’re delivering when the slide is up, you have to have some fluidity to it. The transitions are what you need to nail, because those are the places where it’s going to be awkward. Once you’re where you need to be, you’ll know what you need to say. It’s going to come to you and you can be more fluid with it. If you just practice it robotically, with every word memorized, you’re not going to be able to acknowledge that heckler or make a jock about the technical difficulty because you’re so stuck.