No Nerves Allowed on The Next Food Network Star

Okay, are you watching "The Next Food Network Star" on the Food channel?

This is my first year of watching it and I must say, I like it so much better than Top Chef on Bravo, mostly because the judges seem to want to help these chefs succeed. They give them suggestions and support rather than just tell them that their food sucks.

But I digress.

The Next Food Network Star is a reality show in which 11 chefs complete to have their very own cooking show on the Food Network, like Rachel Ray (who looked so much better when her hair was lighter) and Paula Dean. These 11 chefs are judged not just on how well they cook but on their ability to present their food with pizazz and personality. Basically, to show their star quality.

So, why am I talking about all this when I don’t even really like cooking all that much?

Because on the first or second show of the season, one of the chefs, Tommy  (here’s his photo), couldn’t stop his hands from shaking as he served his bouillabaisse. It was obvious that he was really nervous. So, at the time of the evaluation, just before they kick someone off the show, one of the judges, Bob Tuschman, told Tommy soemthing like, "Hey, even if you’re nervous, don’t show it. Don’t let us see it"

Basically, he told him to fake it. 

Now, you know my stance on faking it. I always say, don’t fake anything. Be real, be yourself, and don’t try to hide anything from your audience.  That old fake-it-until-you-make-it approach only reinforces the myth that you aren’t enough as you are. And it is this myth that causes the fear and anxiety most people experience around speaking in public.

But are there times when it is appropriate to fake it?
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Molly Shannon and The View Talk About The Fear of Public Speaking

Even Saturday Night Live comediennes can be horribly afraid of pubic speaking.

Molly Shannon, comedy film star and well-known contributor to Saturday Night Live, was a guest co-host on ABC’s The View today (damn, I miss Rosie on the show sooooo much), and she talked about how extremely nervous she gets if she has to make a toast at a wedding or speak in public in any way.

"I get so nervous that I can’t enjoy myself until it’s done," says Molly, "It’s one thing to be a character where you’re disguised, but I’m much more nervous and shy as myself."

This seems to be true for a lot of actors. They feel comfortable in a role, but if they have to speak as themselves, eeek!

One of my big tips for people who are nervous about speaking in public is, Be Yourself. But for some people, this is a hard thing to do. Why? Mostly because they feel that if they just show up as themselves, they somehow won’t cut the mustard.

And maybe some actors feel this same way. Or perhaps there is a certain vulnerability they feel if they are just being who they are. As Molly said, you’re not disguised. You have nothing to hide behind.

But why do we need to hide? What’s going to happen if people see who we really are?

I had a client the other day who told me he was feeling so vulnerable the day before he was to give a presentation that he had been working on for some time. His feeling of vulnerability sprang from the risk of sharing something that he had devoted so much time and love and effort towards.

When we really care about something, we feel vulnerable. It’s as if we are at greater risk of being hurt in some way.

But here’s the truth. You can still feel vulnerable and tender yet not be hurt. You can decide to feel the love and care you have for your message or even for your audience AND not let the opinions or judgements of others effect you in any way. You can create your own safety by deciding that no one’s opinion can really hurt you unless you choose to let it do so.

By the way, Joy Behar only suffers from stage fright when she’s doing her stand up routine. And Barbara Walters only gets nervous when people watch her dance.


A Confidence Forumla: Is There Such a Thing?

Is there a formula for confidence? Does it consist of certain components that when piled together create confidence?

I think this depends on how you define confidence. And since my definition is different from most others I would say, no. Confidence is not a collection of components. It isn’t created. It just is.

Then, as I read Dr. Larina Kase’s post over at her Mindset of Success blog, I realized that while confidence is not a collection of attributes or qualities, one’s experience of confidence is influenced by what we think about ourselves. For instance, I don’t think you can fully experience your confidence without a healthy self-esteem.

Yes, there is a difference between self-confidence and self-esteem.

Self-esteem is the value you see in yourself. defines it as "a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect." Unless you respect who you are, you can’t experience a confidence in who you are. That inner confidence still exists; it’s just being squashed by your lack of self-respect, your unwillingness to hold yourself in high regard.
Strangely enough, there was just a study done that supposedly proved that we all have self-esteem, no matter how we present ourselves.

Anyway, enough with all the definitions and studies and formulas.

What matters is, are you experiencing a confidence in who you are, regardless of any definition or formula anyone may come up with? And if not, what’s up with that? What’s in your way?

More than likely, it’s a thought. Or a whole endless stream of thoughts that are probably creating some definition of who you are. Or aren’t.

What you think creates your experience. What you think of and about yourself, your situation, your past experience, your competence and how you interpret your results or respond to what is happening all have a huge influence on your abilility to know and express your confidence. Change your thinking, change your experience of confidence.

Dr. Larina calls this Mindset. But whatever you call it, you can change it in order to allow yourself a greater experience of your natural, non-formulaic confidence. As well as many other wonderful things, like abunance, joy, success. But that’s a different post all together.


Public Speaking Myths: Would Steve Jobs Ever Use Note Cards?

Is it a sin to use notes when giving a speech? Should you have your presentation memorized and so well practiced that you never need to glance at a note card?

According to Garr Reynolds over at Presentation Zen and an email from Eric Feng at The Public Speaking Blog, you should never, ever use notes or cue cards. To do so, according to them, means certain death as a speaker.

I wholeheartedly disagree. There is nothing wrong with using notes as long as you don’t misuse them.

But before I dig into this, you should know that both Garr’s and Eric’s directives were inspired by Cingular’s CEO Stan Sigman’s recent speech at MacWorld back in January. Apparently Stan bored his audience by reading his speech from his 4×5 note cards. Ugh! Not only did he lose his audience but he inspired the online insults and distain of several bloggers who were in attendance.

But was Stan’s demise because of his use of notes or his misuse of notes? I believe it was the latter. I agree that no one should read their speech from there notes. If you’re going to read it, you might as well not even bother to present it.

There is a way to use notes effectively and confidently. To ellaborate, let me jump off of the points from Dale Carnegie that Garr used in his blog post. (They appear near the middle of his post).

Point One: "Notes destroy fifty percent of the interest in your talk."

My Take: Only if you read them or are so tied to them that you aren’t able to speak conversationally, naturally. Notes won’t "destroy" anything if you use them as a tool to keep you headed in the right direction.

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Creating Confidence – Or, Do As I Say, Not as I Do

I hate it when I don’t take my own advice.

Last week my husband and I went to hear my friend Tom play jazz at Equus Restaurant in Santa Rosa. Tom plays bass in my jazz trio, but this night he was playing with his own trio made up of pianist, John Simon, and a drummer whose first name is Paul. I didn’t catch his last name.

As we were sitting there, listening, sipping Zinfandel and contemplating the menu, Tom asked me if I wanted to sit in and sing a few tunes. An invitation to sing! My favorite thing. So, of course, I said yes. I didn’t have my own music but this group knew "I Get A Kick Out of You" so we swung it in C major.

Great! Fabulous. What fun.

Well, then Tom asked me to come up and sing again in the second set. Sure, you betcha. As the pianist launched into "Skylark", I couldn’t really hear my first note from his introduction but I just opened my mouth and took a guess. A wrong guess. I started wrong, but quickly found my way to the right pitch, and the rest of the song went beautifully.

Ah, but that first note! The very first one! To screw that up. Ugh!

I went on to sing a very fun duet with Tom, which we had never done before, and it was great. The crowd loved it. My husband loved it. But I was back in the past, mulling over my previous mistake. Damn, that first note of Skylark.

In fact, I couldn’t let it go all night. Driving home. Going to bed. Even getting up the next day. That mistake haunted me.
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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.