Racing heart, sweating palms and of course, nerves that make it impossible to regain control. Sound familiar? For many of us, this is the inevitable checklist when it comes to public speaking. We simply rule it out as something we cannot do. So, what happens when we stop accepting it as one of life’s fears, and decide to face it head on?
Getting up on that stage can be daunting enough as it is. Add the pressure of telling a great story, or even worse, the task of making an audience laugh, and what previously seemed pretty daunting can quickly become unimaginable.
Unimaginable it may be, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. As frustrating as it is, stepping out of our comfort zones is what pushes us forward in life. Think about it: what if you’d never completed that exam? What if you’d never attended that life-changing interview? From childhood to adulthood, we find ourselves in so many scenarios that are far from comfortable, yet time after time, the clock keeps ticking, the world keeps spinning.
So, if you need one final nudge to conquer a life-changing challenge, these three essential tips should do the trick.
1. Laughter really is infectious
Embrace laughter as a tool to hold your audience’s attention. For me, conquering stand-up comedy helped me to elevate both my self-confidence and eradicate the boundaries that I believe were hindering my progression as an entrepreneur.
In my mid 20s I found myself stuck in a rut, yet there was a glimmer of hope left, searching for a solution. In a twist of fate, I received an email promoting a six-week stand-up comedy course. For me, this was the unimaginable, so you can imagine the horror of waking up the next morning, knowing I’d signed myself up…
After six week of intensity and brutal honesty, the future of my career came down to one moment: stepping onto that stage. Equipped with a pounding heart and sweating palms, I enticed the audience with a joke, and with a burst of laughter, something clicked. I had the audience in the palm of my hand, I could do the unimaginable, and this meant that for the next steps of my career, whether it was crafting the perfect pitch or standing up and talking, I’d never feel the same unease again.
So, find common ground with your audience through comedy. Your jokes don’t have to be anything complicated, but once you’ve got a few laughs going, you’ll feel the rest begin to fall into place with ease.
2. The Structure of Storytelling
For the worriers amongst us, a reliable, well-devised structure is the key to successful public speaking. To guide yourself through the process (and avoid any disasters!), you should build your talk from a solid structure. Each piece of the structure should offer your audience some value.
To help devise a structure, think of public speaking like telling a story. Hook the interest of listeners from beginning to end, with some mishaps in-between. As public speaking coach Patricia Fripp advised me, it’s the first and last 30 seconds that have the highest impact.
“The premise of your story should be that customers will be better off after using your company”
– Patricia Fripp
Ultimately, your story must provide your audience with an everyday scenario, a conflict and a solution. The secret is to make your company the solution of every story you tell, and place your customers at the forefront of the story. They’re the hero.
For example, make one of your customers the ‘hero’ of your next advert, and showcase how your brand enhances their journey. Your brand should be the driving force, enabling the hero to keep pushing along until they reach a solution.
If you’re not sure where to start with crafting a story for your business, why not check out a storytelling workshop? This could help you to develop a story strategy that really resonates with your target audience.
3. What’s the big idea?
As Patricca Fripp points out, public speaking preparation isn’t complete without “the big idea”. So, what exactly does this mean? Quite simply, the big idea is the premise of the story.
To tell an effective story, you must be able to distinguish exactly what your premise is, and this can only be done from a full understanding of who your audience are. It’s more than just placing your audience into a category. It’s the language they use, where they hang out online, and the challenges they’re currently faced with. This requires persona mapping.
So, why not take on the challenge? Conquer the incessant echo of the voice telling you “I can’t do that”, and you’ll be one step closer to reaching the long-term vision you have for your business.