While I'm recovering from illness this week, I'm going to refer back to some of my own posts and posts I've enjoyed by other bloggers, and bring in a guest blogger or two...beginning with my pal Rich Hopkins, speaker, author, and presentations coach based in Spokane, WA.
He has twice appeared in the finals of the Toastmasters Championship of Public speaking, finishing 3rd in the world in 2006. You can find him at richhopkinsspeaks.com, or his blog, richspeaks.blogspot.com. Take it away, Rich!
The experts are wrong. Public speaking is all about YOU.
Despite what you may read elsewhere, the most important person at your next speaking engagement is not the CEO, the meeting planner, the audience or even that one person whose life you might change forever. It's YOU.
There's a saying in the sales world: The first sale is always to yourself. If you don't believe in your right to be speaking, your audience won't believe they need to listen. Even if they know what you are saying has merit, they are less likely to act upon it until they hear it again, paired with belief, in the future.
We run into examples of this everyday. The rookie reporter on his first major story. The arm-twisted church parishioner/association member/corporate manager put in front of their constituents for announcements. The wet-behind-the-ears salesperson who won't look you in the eye.
As a speaker, it is crucial that you buy into yourself, and your right to speak. If the audience senses an incongruity between your words and your belief, your disconnect is transferred to the listener.
Lack of self- confidence is a significant aspect of the 'Fear of Public Speaking'. "I'm nothing special. Why should they listen to me?" is dialog 99.99% of us have heard in our minds at one point or another, whether asking for a date, a raise in pay, or belief from our audience.
To bolster your self-confidence, you must make the first sale to yourself – over your own objections.
Without writing 500 pages of self-esteem psycho-babble, let me say that yes, you are special. No one in the room has lived your life, experienced your joys and sadnesses, you failures and your victories. No one in your audience has lived every second of their life exactly as you have lived yours. You are special in your individuality, and that lends credibility to your message.
As for why they should listen to you? This may sound simplistic, but it's because you're up there. You wouldn't be in front of them unless they or someone they trust/report to had some level of belief in you. You have leveraged permission to speak – take advantage of it.
Before you can make your audience the most important people in the room, you must believe in your right to speak to them. That you, your opinions, and your life and life experiences matter. Otherwise the only person in the room you'll really be speaking to is yourself – and even you won't be listening.