I’m worried about phrasing things the best way. I’m worried about what I look like. I’m worried about what they will think of me. I’m worried about whether I’m going to fall, choke, or pass out from forgetting to breathe while mumbling on nervously in front of the crowd.
These are the thoughts and worries that always torment my mind before public speaking. This is why I’m sweating and shaking.
This time, just an hour before my presentation, I have a thought that changes everything. A redirection and refocus of my mind that makes everything shift. Like most thoughts in my mind, it comes out as a conversation with myself.
Why are you here?
Do you believe in your message?
I’m here to deliver a message I deeply believe in. I’m here in service of that message. When I really think about – this is not even about me. It’s about the audience receiving the message. They aren’t here to judge my speaking ability or to see how I look. This isn’t Toastmasters or a beauty pageant. They are here to hear the message I have to deliver. All I am is a messenger, a tool to get my message out in the world. The reason people show up to see speakers is because of what’s written under the topic line – not the name (unless of course, it’s someone they had previously heard a message from that they valued, and expect more valuable messages based on that).
The focus on my message was an instant shift in my whole mindset. I wasn’t focused on myself anymore. I was focused on the audience getting the most out of this, the message coming through clear and powerfully. It mattered a lot less that I was nervous, that I feared speaking in front of the crowd. I was anchored to why I was doing it, and committed to serve my message.
I might have a hard time believing in my ability to do public speaking – but I don’t have a hard time believing in my message.
When the message is what matters, all the other bullshit is meaningless. Who cares that I’m afraid or don’t feel ready to do this? What matters is that I get out there and do my best to deliver the message. Because it’s important.
And the happy consequence of concentrating my energy on the message? I actually became less fearful, cared less about possible judgment, and was able to speak slowly and clearly. The focus wasn’t on me, and having the focus off of me allowed me to deliver the message even better.
As the speaker, you need to be sure you are delivering a message that matters to you. I had someone recently ask me how I decide which topics to focus on for my workshops. There is no research marketing involved here – it’s purely based on what excites me, what I am passionate about, and what I believe I have to offer others. I’m not trying to create messages that I find out that people want to hear – I’m tuning in to which messages I truly, whole-heartedly believe in, and develop workshops around those. Once the message is figured out, it’s no longer about you. It’s about the audience.
Understanding on a whole new level just how much this is about my message (and NOT me) has given me the room to explore what other ways I can rise up to meet it. What other ways could this message be served? Instead of focusing on what I think I can do with my current abilities or what I feel ready to do – I’m moving past that and asking, What does the message demand? I believe in my message. I believe in my purpose of delivering these messages. Whatever I have to do to serve it, well, I will figure out how to do all those things along the way. I’m sure I will fail. In many ways. But I know I will do a lot more to serve my message by trying to fly before I’m “ready” than I ever will by planning out the best flight course.