You know that. Your mind comprehends it. So why does the fear or rejection stretch all the way to the moon when you have to stand up in front of an audience?
A few months back I spoke at a paper bag lunch. I’d been invited by a consultant to speak to her colleagues in their boardroom about my work. She felt there’d be synergy between what I offer and the needs of some of their organisation’s clients.
There were about 10 people at the lunch – it’s a small company – and all but three were women.
It was easy for me to ‘read the room’ because there were so few people there, and what unfolded provided me with nothing less than a revelation.
As I spoke about the art of connection, crying, and deepening people’s power to influence action and opinion, here’s what I could tell about my audience:
- About 4 people were actively engaged in what I was saying. They were nodding, smiling in agreement, and obviously reflecting on my words. I call these sorts of people my allies, and I’m grateful for them in every audience. They’re like angels who immediately reinforce that what I’m talking about is worthwhile and useful. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other allies there too, it’s just that this type make themselves clearly evident.
- About 3 people didn’t know how to take me at all. Whenever I made eye contact with them they were very uncomfortable. I suspect they found me ‘too much.’
- One person didn’t like me at all. His body language showed it. The way he asked questions showed it. He might as well have said out loud, “Who do you think you are?” and “I’m not buying this at all.”
Something happened that day that’s never happened before.
Even though that guy didn’t like me, I wasn’t perturbed. I didn’t care. I didn’t try to get him to like me. I didn’t change the way I spoke, presented or behaved. I respectfully answered his questions and maintained eye contact with him, and I thanked him when he asked me a couple of great questions. I was professional.
I knew I’d never hear from him again. We’re not meant to work together. He’s not my right person and I’m certainly not his cup of tea.
I am the right person for a few other people who were at that lunch, and we’re continuing to build our connection.
And for the others – those who didn’t know how to take me at all? I doubt we’ll do business together. Again, we’re not right for one another.
And here’s the thing: I’m totally cool with that.
And that’s the revelation. There are people who don’t like me and what I’m all about and I don’t care.
I walked away from that lunch with this insight somehow grounded within as a deep knowing and acceptance for the first time, not just a voice in my head that talks a whole lot of blah blah wisdom that the rest of me just doesn’t buy.
Not everyone will like me. Not everyone will gel with my message. Far out, not everyone needs my message, my work, my intensity and what I have to offer.
There are people who’d be better off working with someone who does it differently from me. Perhaps someone who’s bigger on technique and smaller on heart. That’s absolutely fine. There’s enough to go around for us all.
When I work with my right people, I do superlative work. I love it. I love them. And they love me back. Everyone who’s done my Powerful Speaking Intensive knows that they each hold a very special place in my heart – and will forever.
So, I hear you ask, what does this have to do with standing up to speak in front of a group – on the stage, in a meeting, the boardroom, or even at a networking event?
If you expect every single person in your audience to think you’re a rock star, you’re dreaming.
Unless – and this is a big unless – every single person in that audience is there because they already know you and dig you and want more, more, more of you.
In every audience I speak to, some of my allies are obvious in the first few moments. It’s like we have an instant connection, and it’s wonderful for me to experience that. Those first moments are a vulnerable time for a speaker.
I’m always grateful to the people who make the effort to come down the front to talk to me after the mandatory clapping has stopped and most people are walking out the door. They make my day. And I’d say, in an audience of 40 or so, close to 10 do that.
There are people in every audience who aren’t into me and my style, or for whom my message isn’t relevant. I talk big, and for some people who are invested in small, I’m pushing buttons that aren’t interested in being caressed, let alone jabbed.
And that’s my job. I want my words to make a difference. I want them to transform. I’m all about developing women’s power and leadership. I’m about powerful speaking. I’m not here to play nice. Not these days.
I’m not for everyone.
I don’t care any more (I used to care so much that it kept me frozen and silent). And nor should you.
I can’t tell you how liberating it is.
Just be you. Don’t be less passionate. Don’t be less fiery. Don’t be less you.
You’re not too much. For your right people, your right audiences, you’re perfect.
Drop the shackles of worrying about whether people will like you. Please don’t let it hold you back from sharing the message you’re here to speak.
Express yourself. The world needs to hear what you have to say.
Want to know the message that’s yours to share? Want to experience what it’s like to hold an audience in the palm of your hand? Want to know the freedom of truly being you when you speak, in all your power and glory?
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