I’m Not a Professional Speaker, Yet.
Let me make this abundantly clear. I’m not a professional speaker, so I’m certainly not trying to sell anything here except maybe the idea that talking is great therapy.
I used to consider myself an introvert. I don’t like the attention and, like many introverts often worried what people thought of me. So the mere thought of speaking in front of an audience would sit below carrying out my own dental surgery on my to-do-list. Although I don’t consider myself a professional public speaker -yet, I really do enjoy talking. Let me explain why.
Why Speaking is Effective Therapy
It took a catastrophic series of events in my life for me to reconsider public speaking as a cathartic exercise rather than a torture. Quick version; I had a breakdown through exhaustion, developed severe depression, left my job, bought a business, lost all our money and literally wanted to die. Then both my parents were diagnosed with cancer. When my Mum passed I had nothing left to give, no life left in me, no energy, no confidence and seemingly no hope. When planning laying her to rest with my family I chose to deliver the Eulogy. So my first “gig” was at my Mum’s funeral. Why? Because I didn’t want a vicar, who didn’t know her, to pretend that he did, so I felt it was my duty to speak on behalf of my brothers. The result, albeit a far from a perfect speech, was an unexpected healing process and I regained belief in myself.
Speaking is Cathartic
Some like sport, dancing, singing, playing music or writing, I find speaking cathartic. Whilst I prefer to listen, observe and reflect, I also now like to perform. Speaking about topics that are close to my heart and that I truly believe in is so much easier.
TIP NO.1 Speak From the Heart, Not From the head.
This is definitely the number 1 tip. My good friend Andrew Thorp shared this with me. He’s a gifted public speaker and storyteller, in fact, he does it for a living. Andrew attended an event I hosted a few years ago. It was the first time I had hosted an event for the Mentoring Programme at the Business Growth Hub. Pardon my language, but I was shitting myself. I was downing glasses of red wine and frantically rehearsing my lines word for word. Andrew saw this, took me to one side, took my notes away and said: “You know what you are talking about, just talk from the heart and you’ll be great”. It went very well and I enjoyed it.
TIP NO.2 Don’t Try to be Perfect, Just be human.
When you’ve watched as many talks as I have you quickly detect insincerity. I don’t like over polished super slick and dare I say, phoneys. They remind me of salespeople, just acting not behaving naturally. I cringe when I hear the call to action or the “close”.
I spoke at Fearless Events about my battle with mental health. During the talk, I began to choke up and started to re-live the overwhelming symptoms of anxiety whilst on stage. But I carried on and took the audience on the journey with me. To date, this has been my favourite talk, the most cathartic and I had wonderful feedback.
TIP NO.3 Storytelling, Talk to yourself.
Would you find your own talk interesting? Seriously, what talks have bored you to tears and why? What talks have captivated and inspired you and why? When you’ve decided on your talk don’t type it out verbatim and then repeat parrot fashion. Instead, say it out loud to yourself, you’ll know soon enough if you believe in yourself. Tell it like a story. In my opinion, good stories have heroes, twists, an underlying message and a good ending.
TIP NO.4 Have a Key Message.
It is my ambition to deliver a TEDtalk. TEDtalks are my current medicine. When I feel low, I guarantee that a good TED or TEDx will inspire and motivate me. TED’s strapline is “Ideas Worth Spreading”. This works because each talk has a purpose and a key message. So be thoughtful of the one key message you want your talk to be remembered for. I spoke at DCN (digital and creative network) about co-working in shared spaces. I explained that my business was failing, I felt, because I was working alone. However, a few friends and I rented an office together. My business transformed because I had transformed from despondent to positive. The message was isolation can kill you but co-working could save your life.
TIP NO.5 Have fun, but not at others’ expense.
Comedians are my favourite speakers. No not the crude sweary insulting type, rather stand-up and improv comics. I love a bit of ad lib and fun when it’s appropriate. Don’t try hard to get laughs out of people at their expense, it might well backfire. Instead have a smile on your face when it’s appropriate, feel free to poke fun at yourself a little without damaging your credibility.
And just for fun……..
What to avoid when public speaking, don’t;
- Be a robot,
- Use Dutch courage – try to stay sober,
- Read from a script,
- Aim for perfection,
- Imagine the audience naked, you may get the wrong type of attention 😉
Public Speaking can help with Mental Health. In my case, it’s an unexpected but very welcome side effect of Anxiety and Depression and has helped me find my voice.
Which of these resonate with you? Did I miss any obvious ones?