Today I wanted to get into the fear of speaking and why we put off getting up to the podium. We tell ourselves “I need another day or week to finish this speech” or “Its just not ready, I’m not ready”. We’ve all done it, we’ve made excuses just to put off speeches for another day. In the Toastmasters world, people tend to cancel speech bookings at the last minute. Freeing up a spot for someone with a speech in their back pocket. Something that very few tend to have ready.
One of my favourite speakers, Darren Lacroix has a 6-word slogan he usually says “Stage Time, Stage Time, Stage Time”. What he means is simply just get up and speak, where ever and whenever you can. Its all about practise, practise, practise. The reason is that if you speak today, you will be better tomorrow or next week when you speak again. But you won’t grow until you do.
There were times where I’ve given horrible, horrible speeches. But I look back upon them as speeches I needed to do. I needed to fail in order to realise what I needed to work on and where to grow. You need to fail before you can succeed. I was at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference last year and the keynoter for that conference spoke about how smokers attempt to fail on average 5-6 times before they finally kick the habit. In essence, they fail 5-6 times before they succeed. Failing is a good thing, so fail often. Yes it does hurt but, as my dad said to me once, all things are temporary and the pain will go away eventually.
Getting back to putting speeches off, the way I approach this is that once I book a speech or speaking engagement, I never, never, never cancel. I look at it as, “I booked the speech so I must find a way to give it”. I crave the opportunity to speak because I crave the opportunity to grow. I tell speakers that I mentor to do the same thing. If a speech is booked for a certain day, then thats the day you speak. Even if the speech is only 80% done, it doesn’t matter. Just do it!
If on speaking day you feel unprepared, theres a number of ways to get prepared. Here are the ways I prepare for a speech:
- If I’m at work, I find an empty board room during my breaks or lunch hour or after work and I practise speaking to that empty board room over and over and over until my break is done.
- When I’m in the car, I turn off the radio and give the speech to the car in front of me over and over and over.
What this does is commit my speech to memory and also gives me ideas for improving it before the engagement. As Toastmasters, this approach works very well because our speeches are only 5-7 minutes long. For longer speeches it requires you do this approach days or weeks before the actual engagement.
So the next time you feel like you’re going to pass on a speaking opportunity, think about what you’re how much more you’ll lose by not giving that speech. Just doing it is all that matters!
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