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I have a client, Bart Baker, who has grown a successful insurance office over the past 22 years or so. Because of Bart's achievements, he's been invited to give a keynote at his company's next conference, and in reviewing his accomplishments, he has pinpointed four main steps in the process that helped him get to where he is today.
In working with Bart on his keynote, it has occurred to me that these are principles that would benefit just about anyone who wants to reach higher, grow in their business or better themselves in any area, including public speaking. So allow me to share these principles with you and maybe you'll find them as useful as Bart has!
1. Believe in yourself
In order to overcome fear and lack of confidence as a speaker you first have to acknowledge to yourself that you can do it. You have to see yourself as capable and you have to perceive obstacles as surmountable.
This is not always easy.
Mental fortitude is at the heart of just about every success story I've ever heard. From musicians to athletes to doctors to relief workers, there's a boldness and courage that one must cultivate in order to knock down barriers of fear and insecurity, the barriers that most often come from our own minds, not any external source. (See my series on Thought Traps for more on handling mental barriers.)
Once you find yourself focusing on the positive -- what you CAN do -- instead of the negative -- what you CAN'T do -- you crack open the door to future success.
2. Find your zone
We all have moments as speakers when we know we are nailing it. We get in the flow, we connect with the audience, the audience is responding, and there is a feeling of energy and excitement in the room.
How do you recreate that? By discovering what you love about speaking and what you're good at.
Each of us has our own individual style. If you spend your time trying to mimic other speakers, trying to recreate their magic, it's not going to happen. You can't use Zig Ziglar's stories or mannerisms and hope to channel him in your presentation.
What's your style? Do you have a loud, boisterous personality? Do you like subtle humor? Are you intense and tightly woven? Are you loose and lighthearted? Are you known for your charming, folksy manner?
Are you great in the Q&A part of a presentation? Maybe more of your presentation should be unstructured. Are you good at making complex concepts easy for people to understand? Find audiences who need your specific skill.
Focus on your strengths; that is the only way you can truly channel your own gifts for the audience's ultimate benefit.
3. Set goals
What do you hope to achieve as a speaker? Do you want to get paid as a professional? Do you want to get promoted in your job? Do you want to spread the message of a cause you're passionate about?
Decide where you want to go, and then make note of how you will get there.
If you want to get paid as a speaker, perhaps your first goal would be to develop your topic and your message. Perhaps another goal would be to get a certain number of speaking engagements in the next six months in order to practice and get feedback.
If you want to spread your message, your first goal might be to refine your message and create a short presentation. Next, you might make a list of groups who are a good fit with your message. Then, you might find out how you can get on the agenda of one of their meetings.
Goals don't have to be huge and intimidating. They can be tiny steps toward where you eventually want to be. As you find yourself achieving your small goals, then try setting larger goals.
4. Get support
We all get to a point sometimes where we just don't know what our next step should be. We've done all the research, we've gotten experience, we're moving forward. How then to make the next leap? What's the next challenge? Where do we go from here?
This is when talking to people in your industry who've been where you are, finding mentors and building a support system can help boost you to that next level.
Maybe you need accountability. How about a Mastermind group? Maybe you need to meet more people in your field. How about joining an association of your peers? Maybe you just need some advice. Ask a respected colleague about acting as a mentor to you.
Going it alone is hard. Finding people who do what you do will empower you, educate you, stimulate you and challenge you. Find role models you can learn from and who will push you to do more.
Thanks to Bart for giving me permission to adapt his principles for speakers!
How will you use these principles to help you grow as a speaker?