You’ve Already Got What It Takes, OrWhy Public Speaking Experts Should Shut Up And Sit Down!

I couldn’t stop squirming in my seat.

Every word out of his mouth made me fidget with frustration. It was all I could do to not shout out loud, “Please shut up and sit down!”

I was at a conference listening to a very experienced public speaker talk about how to speak in public. And, like most “speaking experts,” he was spelling out all the do’s and don’t’s of public speaking. Outlining the right ways and the wrong ways, the good ways and even better ways to get your point across and wow your audience.

He even told us what colors to wear. How to stand. How to move. He told us to be sure to amp up our energy, get the crowd to say “Yes!,” and be responsible for the energy of the room.


Okay, I fully understand that this expert, like most speaking experts, are very well-intentioned. They really want to help you be effective and do your best. But this rules-of-the-road approach to public speaking is what contributes mightily to the fear, doubt, self-consciousness and feeling of “not-enoughness” that many people feel when it comes to speaking in public. It chokes people’s own, true, unique, wild voice, their own natural way of expressing themselves.

You already have everything you need to be an effective, charismatic speaker. You do. You don’t need to adopt certain tricks or mannerisms. Nor do you need to speak with an artificially amped-up enthusiasm or energized voice. You do not need to move in this way or that. Or use props or powerpoint. All of these suggestions, though well-meaning, keep us struck in the illusion that we need to be other than who we are right now, in this moment, in order to speak well in public.

Yes, it’s always good to learn from people with experience. But not at the expense of losing touch with the truth that we have, right now, to inherent ability to express ourselves fully, effectively, creatively and fearlessly.

You already have it all. Everything you need to speak in public. For instance:

A Body

You’ve got a body. And that body has a voice. You speak and laugh and cry and scream with it all the time. It’s your voice. It sounds like you, and it doesn’t need to sound like anyone else but you.

You’ve also had years of experience speaking in public. You do it all day, everyday. In the grocery store. Having lunch with friends. Talking to your coworkers. See, you know how to speak in public. It’s not some elite and lofty talent given only to the chosen few.

If you can have a conversation, you can speak in public. Now, I can hear your objections from here. “But it’s different when I’m in front of a group and everyone is starring at me and I’m the only one speaking, and I’m supposed to know something!” Yeah, I get it. I’ve heard it all before.

So let me put it another way. Speaking in public is like having a conversation in which one person has so much to say that they never let another person get a word in edgewise. Sure, there are ways to feel more at ease, more focused, present and connected when you’re in front of a group, but at the very heart and soul of it, you are just talking about something to someone who’s listening.

Because you have a body, you have a nervous system. This is good. Your nervous system is what naturally and involuntarily amps you up  so you can go out there speak with all of who you are, your energy expanded and vibrating so that your presence is huge and magnetic. You don’t have to amp up your energy. Your nervous system does it for you. Have you noticed?

Oh, and because you have a body, you have eyes. Let your eyes be available to your audience. You don’t have to make eye contact. You just need to let your eyes rest in your head and be present and available to whomever you are speaking.

A Mind

Even on those days when you swear you’ve lost it, you do have a mind.

Because you have a mind, you have thoughts. You can speak those thoughts. With your voice. They don’t have to be lofty, profound, complex thoughts.  They get to be your thoughts.

You don’t need special words. You don’t need to sound super articulate. Use the words that come to mind. If the word you expected to come doesn’t come, don’t worry. Another thought will be right there, waiting to take its place. Besides, people aren’t listening to  your words anyway. They hear the intention behind those words. Haven’t you experienced that when you’ve been listening to someone speak? They reach for a word, or use the “wrong” word, yet you know exactly what they mean.

Your mind also knows how to focus, remember (ha! okay, that’s a little iffy) and choose. So, you can choose to speak about something in particular, in a particular order, and your mind allows  you focus there. And, if you’re young, you may also remember what the heck you wanted to say.

But if you forget, no problem! You’ve got notes! Notes that you wrote with your own hand, the hand that came with your body. Pretty slick, huh? Am I making my overly obvious point?

You’ve got a mind. Speak your mind.

A Heart

Now, this is the one thing you sometimes forget to bring along with you when you’re speaking. Your heart. I’m not talking about the beating organ in your chest. I’m talking about that feeling center in the middle of your chest. The emotional heart. The heart of your soul.

You have a heart that loves and appreciates. Even as you’re cursing the Hummer that just cut you off on the freeway, your heart still knows how to love. Or feel fiery and passionate, soft and mushy, excited and elated. Or intensely sad.

Speak from your heart.

If you speak about what you love, what you care about, what excites you, interests you, and if you feel that love as you speak, then you’ve got it made. There is nothing more magnetic, effective, charismatic and inspiring then someone who is truly, authentically speaking from the heart. 

I attended a huge, mega speaking event several years ago. Every day was packed with one expert speaker after another. Yes, they were all very good. But I would have given my eyeteeth for one speaker who hadn’t whittled down their once-sincere story into a sound byte, into a crafted turn of phrase. Give me someone who is real, stumbling over their words, but speaking from their heart and I’ll show you someone who has an audience enthralled and moved.

Your experience

You have your life experience. Your story. Your truth. Your opinion. Your imaginings. Your dreams. Your interests. Your passions. Your curiosity. Speak these. Show up and speak your experience, your truth.

Is there a way to tell your story that might make it more easily heard and understood by some? Perhaps. Who’s to say? For now, tell your story. Speak it from your heart and people will hear you.

Yes, there are a million ways we can improve upon anything. Anything. And that is good. All I am saying is that sometimes, when we listen to experts, experts who are supposed to “know,” we let go of what we know. We forget that have already have something that is unique and valuable. We all too easily relinquish our own authority, our own organic, authentic way, to try to fit into someone else’s idea of what is good and right.

You are right and good right now. You. Your voice. Your mind. Your heart. Your story.

You’ve got it all. Don’t let any expert tell you otherwise.


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