Yesterday afternoon I was speaking to a few hundred people at a Keller Williams Cultural Summit and awards event in Orlando, Florida, giving my keynote speech entitled, “Living Your Legacy Today.” I’m often asked if I still get nervous before speaking. My answer? Heck, yes! In order to calm my nerves, I get as present as possible so I can enjoy the moment, and remind myself why I’m speaking in the first place. I know some of you are already seasoned speakers and others would love to do more speaking, so in this post I break down how exactly I came to feel confident in sharing my speech with the world. This post is also for anyone who will ever get up in front of an audience, large or small, and give a toast, speech, presentation, etc., which pretty much applies to all of us.
I used to have a limited understanding of what it took to be a good speaker. After hearing my late husband, Andrew, speak for the first time when we were students at Baylor University, I thought being an effective speaker meant you had to have a photographic memory and be able to communicate complex intellectual information, all while being entertaining. Andrew was able to do all three of these things. Speaking was something I dabbled in while in college and wanted to learn more about. Once I heard Andrew speak and saw how eloquent, intellectual, and smooth his speeches were, I became extremely critical of myself as a speaker. I started telling myself I wasn’t smart enough to cut it in the world of speaking, so I packed up my future speaking dreams and sent them on a plane to Lord only knows where.
I’m still not positive as to the exact moment it all clicked for me, but the call to speak came back with the sudden realization that sharing all I had been through since my insecure college days was way more important than any of the others things I “thought” made a good speaker. Mind you, this was five years after I had graduated, and had become a woman on a mission to share my husband’s legacy and his books. Which leads me to my first piece of advice…
Get clear and specific about your MESSAGE: I was laser-focused on the value I received from watching Andrew live out the last 10 months of his life and how his journey taught me about what’s truly important during our short time here on Earth. I knew my story could help improve the lives of others. I ceased focusing on all my shortcomings as a speaker because the importance of my message outweighed all those petty things I knew I could improve through training and experience. So should you feel the call to speak, have a message to which you are insanely connected and believe in 110 percent. Trust your mission and message will keep you going when fear wants to creep in and convince you to focus on the unimportant things that only hold us back from reaching our full potential.
Embrace the WAY you speak: Once I decided to go all in with speaking, I became aware that I had to connect with my authentic voice and style of speaking. Andrew was a soulful, intellectual, information speaker and I loved his style. I was more of a heart speaker and storyteller. I started to see there were plenty of speakers like me out there who were having an impact in the world. So my second piece of advice is to find the style of speaking that is authentically you, and avoid trying to sound like someone else. An audience has a collective intelligence and can tell right away if you’re faking it. Your message will ring loud and clear, though, when people hear it coming from your authentic self.
Set an INTENTION before you speak: My specific intention is to connect with the audience. My whole reason for sharing my family’s story and Andrew’s legacy is to connect with, encourage, and inspire people who are going through life’s challenges. By sharing what I have experienced and learned, I aspire to help others move forward in creating a more meaningful and purposeful life. When I focus on connection I’m less nervous because my focus is on authentically sharing my message through stories, and more importantly, my focus is outside of myself. The goal isn’t a standing ovation or a perfectly memorized speech, the goal for me is to be my most genuine and authentic self in order to better connect with others.
I hope these tips will be helpful when you find yourself preparing to speak in front of an audience. Remember, it helps to share something to which you are deeply connected, allow your authentic self to shine through, and set a clear intention for yourself, which will keep your mind focused on a higher perspective. Would love to hear any other helpful tips from any of you who are willing to share! Looking forward to reading your comments. Have a blessed day!
PS –Do you or someone you know have a group in need of an inspirational speaker? If you want Ellie and me to come speak and sign some Ellie Project books, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My presentation is powerful, inspirational, and about living your legacy today! It’s good for men and women, corporate groups, mom’s groups, Bible Study groups, community groups, etc. We are excited to come share this powerful message with you!
PPS – Are you searching for new, fun, and meaningful ways to connect with a child in your life? Share the gift of building lifetime character lessons for each letter of the alphabet with The Ellie Project! To get your copy of The Ellie Project or The Ellie Project Stationery Set, click here!