How do you become a passionate speaker if you are unable to enjoy the process of becoming one? Your love for speaking starts with you. Here are some of my lessons learnt.
There will be plenty of ‘failures’
Be kind to yourself. As a speaker, I can be my biggest critic. At the beginning of my speaking career, I recall being upset with myself for forgetting my lines or making a mistake, belittling myself for days and labelling myself as being ‘stupid’. I have since learnt to accept that with each talk, there will be things that will go well and some things that won’t. I have learnt to maintain a journal. After every presentation, I write down my reflections of a particular talk: what I liked; what needs to be maintained; what did not work; and what needs to change.
This journal becomes my ongoing source of reference and inspiration. For every subsequent talk, I refer to this journal and pick two things to do something different. This could be a new technique to engage the audience, updated slide content, or just a new approach to deliver my content. I have learnt that as long as I keep my content fresh, updated and exciting – I am excited to deliver the talk as I look forward to trying out that ‘new something’.
I have learnt that there might be days when embarrassing stuff happens – technology fails, props fall, I suddenly hiccup. But instead of hiding the thing that happened by continuing to talk and assuming that my audience will forget what they just witnessed, I have learnt to laugh with them and acknowledge the fun and life’s moments in every situation.
This is not a race, it’s a journey
I have learnt to set speaking goals that are focused on experience gained versus outcomes. This allows me to set goals towards improving my speaking: depth, range and complexity of speaking engagements. Speaking is a journey, the skill that you are good at today becomes outdated with changes in technology, culture and audience preferences. I have learnt to constantly reassess my speaking style, delivery, content and my personal brand as a speaker. I have learnt that speaking is not a destination that you arrive at − it is an ongoing skill to learn.
Challenge and growth
I have learnt that I need to crave constant feedback to help me grow my skill as a speaker. I have also learnt that I am unable to please everyone, so I don’t try. At some point, even you need to decide on which feedback you are going to take seriously and what feedback which you will discard. I have learnt if the majority of feedback is saying the same thing – then it’s important to focus my attention on it.
I have also learnt to receive feedback at an appropriate time. After my talk, I first need time to reflect on my talk and self-assess before I receive feedback from other people. Receiving feedback too soon can have the unintended impact of denting my morale. I have learnt to reflect and ask myself good questions such as ‘What can I do to dramatically improve my engagement at my next talk?’ Mentors, coaches and like-minded speakers are a must to associate with.
- Reward yourself for achieving speaking milestones.
- Speaking is a life-long skill and not a short-term goal to achieve.
- Remind yourself of the blessing to share your message and knowledge through speech.
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