Imagine you got asked to speak at an industry conference.
To some of us, a challenge like this feels exciting and we immediately start thinking of a range of topics we could suggest.
It could even be something we have lots of experience talking about and we could comfortably jump on RIGHT NOW and deliver a reasonable talk.
But to a lot of us, just the IDEA to see our face and hear our voice on a poorly lit computer screen sounds like a horrifyingly bad idea.
Like, I’d rather get food poisoning in a cheap hostel in Bali kind of bad.
I get it! I’ve been there too. For the majority of my life.
When I look back at my childhood and teens, it strikes me how often I was scared. We moved a lot, so I was constantly thrown into new groups with its dynamics and power structures.
I was incredibly shy. I was “fortunate” to start school when I was 6 since we lived in the US for a few years, while my Swedish classmates were one year older than me.
So I was the tiny, skinny one with the American accent (NOT an asset back in the 80s).
And I was scared. So I hid.
I did the school work, got the good grades, didn’t stick my neck out and most of the time, I got away with it from the mean girls.
Many years later, when I first started climbing the corporate ladder, I quickly realized that this just wouldn’t do.
I saw how being able to quickly and comfortably talk about a topic was useful in various situations: when asked a question in a meeting, in job interviews or while small talking at networking events or company parties.
These are the 5 skills that have taken me from Scared Shitless to posting daily videos online:
1. Knowing that there’s no perfect topic
When I challenge my clients to prepare a talk, they would like to spend weeks and months on crafting the perfect topic.
That’s a procrastination technique that your inner critic uses to save you from potential emotional harm.
If someone asks you to do a talk, my tip is to go with the first idea that pops up and run with it. Action is everything.
2. Improvising more, preparing less
If you’re a total newbie at this, I’ll allow some leeway to prepare a bit.
But improvisation is a MASTER skill for any ambitious person.
When the responsibilities start piling up and that e-mail inbox just never seems to hit zero, you will be thankful that you have learned to improvise, since not only will you save time, but also the emotional guilt of feeling like you SHOULD be preparing more.
3. Owning your fear, but doing it anyway
OK, so you’ve picked a topic and you have an outline, but no detailed speech.
And you still don’t really feel like doing it.
Actually, you can list a LOT of things you would rather do, including having food poisoning in a cheap hostel in Bali with scorpions crawling around on the floor.
That’s when you tell yourself: “Yes, I’m scared, but I’m going to do it anyway”.
4. Being ok to mess up
It’s time. You’re doing it. You faced your fear and here we are.
And the first thing that happens is that you stumble/mispronounce a word/forget that you were going to say/do something weird with your hands/laugh nervously.
(side note: these are ALL things I did while recording videos TODAY)
And that’s OK!
As long as you’re not delivering The Speech Of The Year or you’re a headliner at TED, we need to keep things easy and just keep going.
5. Knowing that it gets easier every time
Because yes, it gets easier every time. Both the actual deliverance, but also the feeling connected to it.
I still stumble, forget and do and say things that I hope not to, but I’m very detached from it.
Just a few years ago I could have stayed up at night wincing at something I said in a meeting (that I now realize 0% of the participants probably even noticed).
These days, I laugh at myself and move on.
6. Not waiting for the praise and criticism
Finally, don’t go chasing for immediate feedback.
Give yourself some space to evaluate how you feel about this and how you could improve next time.
Praise and criticism often says more about how the person watching you absorbed your message which CAN be very valuable, but could also just confuse you and make you more reluctant to giving this a second go.