Public Speaking – Setting Up a Story

Last week, I was working with a client who had created an impressive presentation on the people of New Guinea. He had created a PowerPoint presentation, that consisted of these gorgeous photos he had taken himself during a trip to that far away land, that he augmented witih his many stories of his trip and many fascinating facts about New Guinea and the people who live there.

And while my client really knew what he was talking about, he had a tendency to slide in sideways when setting up his stories or segments. Rather than state a point, a fact or launch into a story, he would say something like, "What you see here…" or "Oh, yes, and this is where…" rather than start with a strong, clear sentence.

And all of this brings me to a recent post on Tom Antion’s blog, Great Public Speaking, where he gives you some Don’ts, and a few Do’s, when it comes to setting up a story.

Some good don’t’s in Tom’s post are:

Don’t say the words funny, reminds me of, or story.

Don’t say, I heard a good one the other day…

Never say, I don’t know if I should tell this one. If there is any doubt whatsoever that a story is not appropriate for a particular group, leave it out.

Tom’s advice on starting a story is this:

The best way to start a story is to get right into it. You should be into the story before anyone realizes it is a story. That way they are already deeply involved and don’t have time to resist.

Tom has a lot more good advice over at this blog. You may want to put it into your Google Reader. 

The Fear of Public Speaking: It’s a Love Thing

The more I work with people who are scared of speaking in public, the more obvious it becomes.

The fear of speaking in public could be cured with a healthy dose of love and respect for yourself.

Think about it.

When people get super-nervous about speaking it’s often because they fear being judged negatively, of making a mistake, of looking like a fool. This means that they care more about what others may think of them than they care about how they feel about themselves.

But what if you cared more about how you felt than you did about the opinions of others? What if you loved yourself and respected yourself so passionately that you would never dream of allowing the thoughts of others to affect your well-being in any way?

Can you imagine it?

Oh, sure, it would be nice if everyone wanted to be your friend and it would be great to attract swarms of new clients every time you open your mouth, but if that didn’t happen, how devastating could that be?

So, how can you start loving yourself and respecting yourself to the degree that your well-being comes first and you’re never scared of speaking in public again? It could be challenging, especially if you were raised to place the approval and opinions of others before your own (what child wasn’t raised that way?), to be nice, to be appropriate, etc.

Here are a few steps to move you towards falling in love with yourself:

1. Accept and Appreciate Who You Are Right Now

Yes, I know you are on your way to becoming someone great and grand, but can you appreciate how great you are right now? No matter who you are or where you are in your life, you have a lot to offer and share right now.

2. Decide To Love Yourself Above All Others

Now, this can be scary because if flies in the face of what you’ve been taught. But what would happen if you decided, today, to love yourself completely? If you gave yourself your full approval and respect, no matter what?

Can you at least decide that you care enough about yourself to make sure that you have a fun, easy time when you are speaking in public? Perhaps you can start there.

3. Says Who?

If you find yourself talking trash to yourself, stop it! This can be blatant, like that voice in your head that says, "Oh, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going screw this up," to more subtle quieter voices that lob little doubts your way, like, "Maybe this isn’t the right time for me to try speaking at that event."

Who says? Where is that voice coming from?

4. Make the Loving Choice

Make choices that feed your love for yourself, that support who you really are, that show a profound respect for who you are. Sometimes we think we are doing the loving thing by saying no to certain opportunities. We see it as self-care. But be careful. It can also be a way to keep us locked in a familiar but small, disappointing and disrespected image we have of ourselves.

One way to tell the difference is to ask yourself, "Am I making this decision out of a feeling of lack (lack of talent, time, skill, confidence, etc.) or abundance (plenty of opportunities, time, money, etc.)? Does this decision support me and my greatness, or does it keep me small and scared?"

Loving yourself as you are right now will transform more than just your ability to speak in public. As Oscar Wilde once said, "To love one’s self is the beginning of a life-long romance."
To start your own life-long romance with yourself, consider signing up for the "Becoming Fearless" e-zine at Each month, you get a ton of tips and information on how to speak with confidence, ease and your own kind of charisma.

What Is Confidence?

I’m always yackity-yacking about confidence but I have I ever fully defined it?
I don’t think so.

At least, not here on this blog.

But I am inspired by a recent post at Parent’s Eye View that actually used a dictionary definition of confidence that felt rich, complete and accurate. I am especially facinated by the first two definitions:

1. full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing: We have every confidence in their ability to succeed. The best definition, but also the one that is most used insincerely;

2. belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance: His lack of confidence defeated him.

Full trust, belief in the powers. Trustworthiness. Sounds yummy, no?

So, using this definition, self-confidence could be defined as a full trust in oneself, a belief in one’s power, right? A sense of self that is worthy of our own trust. Ah, yes. That’s getting closer.

But then there’s that second definition which, while technically accurate, doesn’t fit my own.

To me, confidence is a state of being and an essential quality of our true self. We are born with it. All of us. It is an inherent, knowing trust and belief in who we are, as we are. It has nothing to do with how much we know or what we can do. It is a confidence in ourselves that extends far beyond all that.

When we feel confident about something we can do, like speak in public, drive a car, knit a sweater, that is a confidence in a certain ability. I suppose we could call it Skill-Confidence, but not Self-Confidence, because it is confidence that only extends to a certain skill or ability.

Even the the dictionary’s definition of self confidence is distorted. Again, it’s all about a confidence in one’s abilities, judgement or power, but not in one’s Self, not in who you are  regardless of what you can or can’t do. This is a mistake, and I suppose I’ll have to tell the Dictionary people about it!
What’s your definition of Confidence and Self-Confidence? Do you have a confidence in who you are? Or do you have confidence in certain things you can do?

The truth is that you do have an unconditional confidence in who you are. You came with it. It was part of your Starter Package when you arrived here. And it’s not lost. You’ve probably just buried it under a lot of conditioning.


Mister Rogers Was a Confidence Guru

"Why in the world couldn’t we use this thing called television for the broadcasting of grace through the land?" — Fred Rogers

It’s Friday night, and there’s nothing on T.V.  It’s a good time to sit back and watch a YouTube video that might just make you cry.

My buddy Andy Wibbels turned me on to this video of Mr. Fred Rogers receiving his Life time Achievement Award.

I never watched Mr. Rogers as a kid. I was I had. He instilled confidence in children. He was a man of amazing love and acceptance who made children feel their worth and their uniqueness, and their power to live lives of contribution and joy.

Watch it all the way through to where he actually accepts his award. What a beautiful man.

When Performing, Sometimes, Connection Has to Come Before Content

Performing, like speaking in public, can at times be an outrageous act of courage.
Especially if you are a singer who has lost her voice.

My friend, who shall remain nameless, called me yesterday. It was the first night of her two-week run at a very well-known cabaret room in San Francisco. And she was so sick that she had almost completely lost her voice.

"I don’t know if I can sing. Everytime I take a breath I start coughing," she said in a rough, raggedy voice. "And I have press coming tonight. If I could, I’d just call the whole thing off."

It’s scary. When you are a singer and you’re sick and you need to perform, it just feels awful because you know there is no way you can do your best. There is no way that you cannot be super-conscious and cautious about what kind of sounds might come out of your mouth, or if any sound at all will come out of your mouth.

But, as they say, the show must go on.

So, I’ll tell you what I told her. When you can’t be at your super-shiny best, when you’re instrument is less than ideal, when you are working with obstacles over which you have no control, REMEMBER, your connection with your audience must be your primary focus.

See, what often happens with singers in particular is that they get so obsessed and self-absorbed in trying to sing well that they cut off from their audience. Especially when they aren’t in great vocal shape. They are mentally fussing with their voices so their energy and attention is on technique and getting through the next phrase without coughing.

But here’s the deal. Your audience doesn’t care if you take a breath and start coughing. They understand that singers get sick. They don’t care if that note didn’t soar out with perfect intonation and pitch. They will forgive all that IF you don’t leave them.

So, don’t leave them. No matter what happens, be with your audience. Sing to your audience. Let your availability and vulnerability be right there for them. Don’t hide. Be real with them and they will love it, whether you’re spot on or not.

I remember seeing Rita Moreno perform several years ago, and she was sick. No, her voice wasn’t as strong or as clear as it usually is, and at one point she had to turn from the mic to cough, but she was right there with us. She didn’t hold back on her presence and energy. And it was a fabulous show.

When your voice leaves you, when your speech isn’t perfect, when something goes wrong with the equipment, none of that matters IF you can stay with your audience through it all. When you hit the stage and you know you’re not at your best, let it go. Decide that your connection with your audience will be your primary goal and focus, and you will do just fine.

P.S. My friend did do just fine. She even sang pretty well, and the reviews are going to be great. I just know it.

Public Speaking – How to Beat the Epidemic of Not Enough


There’s an epidemic infecting the majority of the population of America. Maybe the world.

No, I’m not talking about avian flu, or malaria or hyperopia.
I’m talking about the Epidemic of Not Enough.

The symptoms to watch for are:

  1. a tendency to always think or feel that you are in some way not enough, that you are lacking some quality, skill, talent or characteristic.
  2. the thought that others may be able to be, have or do what they want, but you don’t get to.
  3. the feeling that you always need more of “something” (more money, more time, more training, more experience) before you can take action or succeed.
  4. feeling stuck, like you can’t move ahead or follow an impulse because you either talk yourself out of it, postpone it or doubt your ability to create a satisfactory result.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, don’t call your doctor. Chances are he’s got the same disease and won’t have a clue as to how to cure you.

In my work with clients, when someone is feeling nervous, anxious, scared or stuck about expressing themselves in public, it is almost always associated with what Kim George calls, The Illusion of Not Enough. (Kim is the author of “Coaching Into Greatness,” an amazing book that I am eating up right now.) This is when you start feeling extremely nervous and scared because you hold some belief or thought that you’re simply not up to the task of speaking or performing in public.

You tell yourself you’re not smart enough. Not polished enough. Not interesting enough, not attractive enough, not articulate enough.  Or, that you don’t have enough of something. For instance, you can’t do it until you more training, more time, more practice, more experience, a better outfit, the right atmosphere.

Stop and think about it. Is this sounding at all familiar to you? Can you identify the ways you may be the victim of Not Enough?

The tragedy of this Illusion of Not Enough is two-fold. One, it keeps you small, silent, scared and frozen in place. It prevents you from moving towards what you want and what you deserve.

But the even bigger tragedy is that it’s all a lot of hooey! It just isn’t true. It is, in fact, an Illusion. You ARE enough. Who says otherwise? As Kim George says, “Who’s holding the measuring tape?” And against what standard of measurement are they holding it?
Read more

What a Violinist Can Teach You About Stage Fright

Whether you are speaking in public or performing, you may appreciate these tips from violinist Clayton Haslop. In his latest blog post, he coaches a nervous violinist on how to prepare right before a performance in order to play at his best from the get-go.

What I appreciate about Clayton’s tips are that they include the body-mind-emotion connection. He talks about warming up physically while belly-breathing, visualizing and focusing the mind on the desired outcome AND sinking into the feeling of what he is playing (or communicating).

And when you don’t have time to prepare as you would like, Clayton says:

You breathe, you count, and you visualize. You do not allow yourself to focus on minor, or even what you may regard as major errors. You focus on telling a story of the music, on painting pictures, on communicating a gift of love.

If you want some more ways to line up your body, mind and spirit before you speak or perform, be sure to sign up for the "Becoming Fearless" e-zine (sign up at the top of this page). There is always a feature article on how to become confident and at ease in your self-expression as well as a Quick Tip of the month.

Public Speaking & Your Purpose: What Do You Want Them To Do?

I always ask my clients, what do you want to experience when you are speaking in public?

The answers vary from "I want to feel like I’m doing a great job." "I want to get a standing ovation." "I want to feel like I know what I’m talking about."

But my favorite answer was, "I want them to think I’m great! I want them to be really impressed!"

Now, that was an honest answer. Because if you distill the other answers down to their essence, it all comes down to, "I want to be liked." Or, "I want to them to be impressed."

Now, there is nothing wrong with this desire. It’s an honest desire. But it’s also a desire that can really mess you up when it comes to feeling confident and free when you’re speaking or communicating in any way. If you are doing it to get someone to like you, or to be impressive, you will forever be at the mercy of someone’s good or bad day, their opinion or their state of mind in that moment. And it will drive you crazy.

That’s why I love the advice that world champion speaker Darren LaCroix gave to Eric Feng of The Public Speaking Blog about his purpose in being a speaker. Darren was commenting on Eric’s desire to WOW his audience, which is, again, a very honest desire.
Here’s what Darren told him:

"First of all, I must comment on your purpose. You say that you want the audience to go “wow” after the end of my speech… to me that implies that you want the audience to be impressed by you. Then you say that you want to be at the level of a champion. Do you understand that to speak like a champion, you must think like a champion?

Champion speakers do not aspire to getting a wow. We aspire to get the audience to do something for themselves, or to think differently about your subject or themselves when we are done. You need to think the same way. You cannot worry about what the audience thinks of you…that is an amaturish way of thinking. Think bigger. What will they “do” as a result of you speaking… make sense?

Don’t worry, we all start that way. A speaker grows incredibly when – as Brian Tracy says – you go from here I am to there you are."

Fascinating, no?

I love that Eric had the guts to share this feedback publicly so we could all benefit from Darren’s comments.

Now, I’ve never been an advocate of getting an audience to DO something. It reminds me too much of watching these evangelical, hypnotic marketing gurus speaking in such a way as to inspire the audience to buy thousands of dollars worth of their products.

But what Darren is saying is that it’s about inspiring your audience to do something FOR THEMSELVES, or perhaps even think differently about themselves.

What I also appreciate about this message is this: it’s not about you, it’s about them, your audience. It’s not about you being revered and admired and adored. It’s about your audience benefiting in some way by spending that time with you.

Now, as Lee Glickstein would say, just sharing your authentic presence is enough. That in itself can inspire and move people to a different place, a sweeter space.

So, don’t feel like you need to get your audience to do something huge, grand and dramatic. Remember, that just showing up with the purpose to be present, to be available to your audience, to be real, and to share what’s true for you is in itself inspiring and will move your audience in the direction they want and need to go.

Your authenticity and your ease in fully being who you really are gives the same to your audience. It awakens within them their owning knowing of what they need to do to move closer to that which will be in their best interest.

Why Am I Presenting This Challenge?

Some people are asking me why am I talking about a World Drunk on Appreciation challenge on a blog dedicated to fearless self-expression and confident speaking.

Because I want to.

Ha! No, the real reason is that this challenge is all focus. Focus and Feeling. Two of the most powerful tools we can use when it comes to feeling confident and powerful when we are speaking in public in any way.

Where you put your focus determines how you feel. It also directs your energy and thought along the same lines. So if you are complaining, you are focusing on what you don’t want. You are giving it energy AND power in your experience, in your reality.

And this, I find, is exactly what we do when we are about to speak or perform or express ourselves in some public way.  Our mind starts focusing on everything that could go wrong. It starts worrying. It starts saying things to you like, “Oh, man, I’m going to forget that middle part. And this audience is sure to find me boring. What if I space out?” 

This is focus gone postal. The mind is telling you horror stories, hurling insults at you and basically giving a lot of energy to WHAT YOU DON’T WANT!

By choosing your focus, focusing on what you DO want rather than what you DON’T want, you get to direct your energy, attention AND your feeling in a direction that allows you to feel eager and confident about what you are about to do. By choosing your focus, you choose how you get to feel. Fabulous and ready. Or small and terrified.

That’s why I’m presenting this Appreciation Challenge. To become more conscious of how we use the power of our focus. We can focus on what irks us, or we can, in that moment, bask in the appreciation of what we love.

This is just good creating and attracting. What you think about grows. What you think about is attracted into your experience. So, think about what you love, what you truly appreciate. Let every little niggle of a complaint turn you towards appreciation.

Just try it!

A Technorati Technicality

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