I Gave a Speech and Survived Using These 4 Tools
I gave a 30-minute speech to a crowd of more than 100 people and I didn’t pass out, throw up or sweat through my shirt. This is not a big deal for seasoned speakers, but for me this was a major coup.
For most of my life I’ve been deathly afraid of public speaking. Like a palm-sweating, heart-racing kind of fear. Jitters for days. Therefore, I’ve been more than happy to avoid potential speaking opportunities, knowing full well that in doing so I’ve (sadly) limited my potential.
This year I decided I was done playing small. My intention in 2019 is to push myself out of my comfort zone so I can continue to grow and not pass up opportunities due to fear. I decided I wanted to choose courage over comfort and model this for my clients as a Health and Life Coach.
Little did I know that my first big test after setting this intention would be a request to speak at an event. Just perfect. The universe delivered…forget about little challenges, let’s go for the biggie, the one you fear the most! Here was a big juicy chance to step up and “live it to give it” as we say in the coaching world.
I’ve been studying and training as a coach for more than a decade. This circumstance required me to use all of my best coaching tools on myself. I am here to report that this worked! This story has a happy ending.
Here are the four coaching tools I used to successfully overcome my fear of public speaking and not only deliver the speech, but enjoy a peak experience. It is my hope that others who share in nerves around public speaking might find these tools helpful as well.
- PROCESS OVER OUTCOME: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this to my kids over the years. Worried about the grade on your paper? Focus on the process. Want playing time on the field? Focus on the process. Striving for a goal? Focus on the process. So I took that strategy to heart. I focused on doing the very best I could to prepare and detached from the outcome. I reminded myself that a world-class job of preparing would equal a world-class speech. I avoided procrastination. I wrote the speech and created the PowerPoint weeks ahead of time. And then I committed to practicing. Every day. Often. To the point where I was tired of listening to myself. And had it memorized. I felt 100 percent prepared.
- REMEMBER YOUR WHY: Each time I thought about giving any speech I would feel jittery. It was muscle memory from traumatic experiences I had years ago when I had to speak in school and was unprepared. So in making the decision to step up and forge ahead despite my fears I needed to remind myself why I was doing this in the first place. My mission is to help people lead healthier lives. If I play small and pass up opportunities due to fear then I am not living out my mission. I gave this speech because not showing up was not an option. That one person who needed to hear from me – that things could get better – might be sitting in that room.
- MIND YOUR MIND: This experience required me to use every thought tool I have ever learned as a coach. Since I’m aware that I have a vibrant imagination and an active mind I knew that my thoughts and self-talk regarding this speech would be loud and boisterous. I needed to find a way to help my brain simmer down. I was reminded of a quote by Brene Brown in her book Dare to Lead where she recalled Joseph Campbell’s quote: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Brown urges readers to “own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you are meant to serve and support…” She goes on to write: “Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid. At the exact same time.” I knew in this case that my fearful thoughts were going nowhere. So rather than try to reframe the thoughts I just set about to accept them and insist that they take a back seat to my ultimate goal of speaking. The cave was my fear of public speaking and the treasure was the chance to help people lead healthier lives. So I chose to be “brave and afraid” at the same time and in doing so I felt a sense of peace and calm when I took my place at the podium.
- HAVE FUN: Fun and public speaking have never been in the same sentence for me. Ever. But in this case – since I had done the work of preparing, remembering my why, and managing my mind – I showed up and had a blast. I had such easy recall of the speech I could go off script, have side conversations, laugh easily and just be myself. Of course, I hope the crowd had as much fun as I did! I hope that at least one person walked away with some nugget of information to lead a healthier life.
I am thankful the universe conspired to bring me this opportunity so that I could be of service to people. Here is the happy ending: I finished the speech. Standing. Breathing. In one piece. I got in the car and thought to myself: “That was fun. When do I get to do it again?”
Abbe Jacobson is a Health and Life Coach living in Seattle, WA. For more information on coaching, check out her website at www.abbejacobson.com.
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