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The #1 Public Speaking Rule that has to Change

It is time we update one public speaking rule to align with the collective wish for more authenticity in communicating.

Public Speaking coaches everywhere advise their clients, “Don’t ever tell them you are nervous. They won’t know.”  This old-style public speaking rule causes us to sacrifice being real for looking perfect. Public speaking will always be a performance rather than a communal “being with” experience.  Until we let go of this false rule, we won’t become authentic speakers.

This universal but deceptive public speaking rule has to change in order to transform the world.  Here’s why.

  1. The pretense of looking perfect prevents you from sharing your emotions and making genuine connection with listeners. It creates an illusion of perfection that is not true to who you are.
  1. It is simply not authentic to put on a false front when you feel real nerves. And yes, your listeners will know it on some level because they will sense what you feel.
  2. You are not able to flow your thoughts and words with the passion you naturally feel for your topic.
  1. Your body stays stiff and wooden because your real emotional energy can’t flow through you. So your gestures and physical movements will be awkward.

I have learned that being honest with listeners releases me into a genuine emotional connection with listeners that is much richer than can be felt when pretending to be perfect. I’ll share a true story that was of part my journey from a seriously scared speaker to one who can speak freely from flow. This was the moment I really had to walk my talk and learned how valuable my method is.

My Story

In April of 1995, I was a member of The National Speakers Association. This is the organization of paid professional speakers, my peers and mentors.  It was my turn to give a 15-minute spotlight speech to the Houston local chapter of professional speakers.

I prepared for that speech for weeks in advance. I wrote and practiced and practiced and wrote, practiced some more until I thought I had a dynamite speech that would impress the members.

The night before my talk, I was completely seized up….filled with fear and anxiety.  After not sleeping a minute, at 2 am I sat up in bed and realized I could not give the speech I had written. Because…It was not authentic! I had written it to impress the NSA members. 

 So, I quickly rewrote my speech to simply share my work with stage fright and fear of public speaking.

 Despite ten years of effort to develop my public speaking method, that morning I was in the worst stage fright I had ever experienced! I had no idea I would be so scared to speak to NSA members.

 At 8 am I was introduced. I walked up the center aisle, reached the platform area and turned to face them. In that split second, I knew there was just one thing to do. I had to use my own methods and tell them the truth.

 I took a deep breath. I used soft eyes to look around the room and connect with some of them.

I said something like, “I had no idea I would be this scared to speak to you! I wrote a talk and I practiced and practiced for weeks, but at 2 am this morning I realized I could not give that talk…(I paused)  because I wrote it to impress you. So, I am just going to share a little about my work on transforming stage fright and developing authentic speaking.  I’ll also share a grounding exercise that is amazingly helpful.”

Within seconds, I felt a lovely sense of connection start to fill me up. As I spoke those words of truth, I felt the tension drain out of me. I sank deeply down into my legs and grounded. I began to feel like my best self. My breathing freed up and I entered the FLOW state where I stayed through my talk. The energy I felt in the room was a shared sense of love. The President of our chapter later said he had never felt that quality of energy at NSA before!

A New Public Speaking Rule

 My point is that we need to collectively create new rules for public speaking that embrace authenticity and transparency.  I believe our first new rule should be, “Start by being open with your audience.”  This public speaking rule will capture their attention and connect with their humanity.

What if you just said, “I’m a little nervous. I want to do a good job for you”?  To be this open frees you of the tension of being the center of attention.  You will be able to relax into being yourself and being with them.

If I can help you transform your public speaking anxiety and become an authentic speaker please reach out to me.  Call me at 281-293-7070 or request a complimentary coaching call

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