Tricia Karp Tricia Karp
15 June 2015

Public speaking confidence: lessons from a kid who gets it

My daughter loves singing.

This year she joined the Australian Girls Choir. She was asked to audition for a solo in the Winter Showcase Concert, and was awarded a part. At the weekend, in front of more than 800 people, she stood out the front, microphone in hand, and sang her heart out.

Proud? Far out. I cried. And I reflected afterwards on what touched me most.

My girl, who’s nearly nine years-old, has never lacked confidence when it comes to performing. She’s right at home on a stage and always has been. She doesn’t do fear, stress or anxiety. She does excitement and joy, and it’s written all over her presence, which I have to say is rather powerful (and if you don’t believe me, just ask the other mums and dads who regularly comment about it).

She knows who she is and what she’s here to do (I reckon we all do, when we’re children. We just know).

The way my darling walked out in front of the other 60 children on that stage, picked up the microphone, stood firmly and proudly, and then sang as though she was exactly where she was meant to be, was… inspiring.

After working with hundreds of people and presenting to many hundreds more to help them discover their own confidence when it comes to standing on a stage – whether that’s during a work presentation to a small team or a room filled with thousands – and from my own public speaking career, of course, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to do it like my girl does.

I suggest starting here:

1. Speak about what matters to you

This is the easiest way to access your passion, which will make you present so much more confidently and have a far greater impact on your audiences.

If you’ve been given a topic that doesn’t light your fire, find a way to put yourself into it so that it does. Share personal stories. Share the meaning for you. That will make it matter – and memorable – for others.

If you don’t truly care, then people sitting in your audience won’t. It’s as simple as that.

2. Make love to your fears, stress, nerves and anxiety

Yes, I did say that.

There’s a reason why your body feels the sensations it does, such as sweaty armpits, butterflies in your tummy, a dry throat, a racing heart, and perhaps even needing to go to the toilet. Often.

It’s all good. In fact, it’s fantastic!

Welcome it. Say “Oh hello, you’ve arrived, thank you so much for being here!”

Those sensations are preparing you to be ON and ready to rock that stage. You need them to be your best. And when you can well and truly start to embrace them, you can also start to experience excitement.

And then, you won’t be able to wait to get up on that stage and do your thing.

It’s totally do-able. Just ask my clients, especially those whose hair used to fall out before a presentation, and those who could hardly sleep for a week – and now can’t wait to speak in public.

3. Own the opportunity

I have clients who do ground-breaking work. They have ideas worth sharing. They consistently inspire me when we work together. And yet… they start spinning out about whether what they have to say – and they – are worthy enough to grace the stage.

Cut that out. Right now! You’ve been asked to speak. That’s a privilege. Grab it with both hands and go for it.

4. Stop being so selfish

It’s not about you. Focus on your audience and what you have to give. Take the focus away from yourself.

This is very useful for reducing self-consciousness. I repeat: it’s not about you.

5. Listen to people who know what they’re talking about

Sometimes, when nothing I say is getting through to one of my clients, I say this: If you can’t trust yourself, trust someone who knows what they’re talking about. That’s me. And I’m telling you, you have what it takes, you’re amazing, and you’ve got this.

Sometimes we need to hear it from someone else when we can’t see it for ourselves. Find that someone who knows what they’re talking about, and whom you can trust.

Then, listen up!

Master those five tips and you’ll be way ahead of the game. I promise.

PS I haven’t had to explain any of this to my kid. I realise that could change, but I hope not. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go through life without any more nerves, stress and anxiety about speaking in public? Wouldn’t it be the best to get up on that stage and well and truly own it?

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Would you love to master all this? I thought so! Check out my next public speaking program in Adelaide for inspiring leaders – Wise Talks. The action starts in September. Registration is open now.

 

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