Learn to Lose Yourself a little, but often.
For many beginner speakers, the first time that they step on stage can be a painful experience.
Eminem said it best in his song for the unexpectedly excellent movie 8 Mile.
The song that was made famous through that movie: “Lose Yourself”, tells the tale of a rapper, learning his trade under the most difficult of conditions.
His talents are largely overlooked by his peers, and he is seen as an outsider in the rapping game, and in the song, he explains his character’s experience before going on stage:
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s chokin’, how, everybody’s jokin’ now
The clock’s run out, times up, over bloaw!
If you are a beginner to the public speaking world, and you have ever had to stand up and speak in front of a group of people, you will have felt every experience that Eminem writes about.
Speaking is something that, as humans, we take for granted.
If we are extroverts, we might speak our mind regularly, and avoid listening to the chatterbox in our heads, preferring to let it all come out.
Or, if we are introverted, we might remain quiet more often, but our minds are brimming with ideas and things to talk about.
The majority of people, introvert, or extrovert, though, will almost always feel the same when they go up on stage for the first time. Be that at a wedding as the best man, to make a toast at a birthday party, or even to do a small presentation for work.
There seems to be an unseen force that grips us from within and freezes us to the spot.
People report that their mind goes completely blank, or recall that “the words wouldn’t come out”, and that experience of “choking” can lead to an immediately negative association with public speaking, and ‘the stage’.
This is normal
You are not a special and unique snowflake when you feel anxious on stage. I feel it, Eminem feels it, Barack Obama feels it.
Some other presidents might not, but thats fine.
Some people will tell you they don’t feel “the choke”, but watch their face when they tell a joke that nobody laughs at.
Or, if they say something awkward, watch their body language. They will flinch.
The more experienced they are, the less the noticeable flinch, but it’s there: trust me.
If you really want proof of this, then watch the documentary Comedian with Jerry Seinfeld.
Jerry Seinfeld is probably the most famous comedian in the world and yet he still practices and looks for gigs like he’s only just started performing.
He seeks out smaller venues to practice his craft and polish his material so that when it matters he can give it his all.
Bill Clinton was a notoriously bad public speaker when he first became a senator in America.
Sure, he could speak in front of a crowd, but he would go on and on, repeating the same topic, or meandering onto various different topics without direction.
This is another form of “choking”. Saying nothing can sometimes be more powerful than saying too much.
Should I talk more or less then?
So what do you do? Talk less, or talk more to begin with?
You learned to walk by getting up and bumbling forward in small amounts until you fell over.
Then, you would get up again and again, not exerting too much energy, but with a focus that only children naturally possess.
Not considering failure, you just kept doing it.
Walk, fail, talk fail, then eat, then try again. No excuses. No negative self-talk.
When you woke up, you might distract yourself with toys, but when you knew you had to move across the room you would try to walk, no matter your previous failure rate.
You would do this little by little, but often.
This is what you should do with public speaking.
If you have a best man’s speech to deliver, you simply cannot wait until the night to start speaking. You need to be delivering your material little by little to all who will listen. Not necessarily all at once, but a joke, or line here and there.
If you have a presentation at work, there is no point in practicing it once and then spending the rest of your time cleaning the kitchen for the first time in months to avoid it. You need to spend twenty minutes practicing and then give yourself a break.
You nail an interview by practicing your questions in a mirror, or with a friend, over and over again for weeks, not one day before the event.
If you have the desire to learn public speaking, then you already know the benefits.
You know the power that public speaking has for politicians, managers, stand-up comedians, and thought leaders.
You can have that same power by practicing a little speaking, often.
Learn to tell jokes to friends, and even strangers. Learn the joke, word for word. Then, deliver it like you were being paid.
Memorise a poem, or famous quote, and recite it at the most appropriate, (or inappropriate for an extra challenge) moment.
Only humans possess the ability to communicate through speech and language.
If you are not using the one skill that separates you from the beasts of the field, then you are doing yourself a disservice.
You have the ability to be a powerful speaker. Just let yourself go. Lose yourself and start practicing a little, but often.
I have seen women of 4 feet tall speak with more power and presence than six foot men, and it’s all because they were willing to lose themselves more often.
There really is nothing to hold you back if you will only let yourself practice little and often.
Lose yourself and start now.