My belief that every struggle serves a purpose runs deep.
So, when I was asked to share part of my personal story for a group of over 200 women, I was thrilled to accept. This was the kind of opportunity I’d been waiting for, for a long time.
I was nervous!
I had something share!
I couldn’t wait to tell these women that they can make it through terrible circumstances, no matter what!
I pictured my self over and over again on that stage. I could feel my feet steady and grounded, the lights warm on my face. I could see the silhouettes of the women in the darkened room. I pictured women coming up to me afterward, asking me questions, thanking me for my time and sharing how my message impacted them.
I worked so hard on my talk. Scripting it. Going over it with friends. Practically memorizing my words, gestures, and voicing.
I just knew it was good.
The evening came, and I hopped in my minivan to make the half hour trek to the venue. My husband had sent me High Valley’s “Ain’t She Amazing” earlier in the day, and I played it on repeat to pump me up.
I arrived early and felt remarkably free of nerves.
The other speakers were excellent, and I did my best to listen, but I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for my turn. When it finally came, I got up to get my headset (a sign of speaker rockstar status) and waited for my cue to take the stage.
I took my place and gave my 10-minute talk with all of the passion I could muster, delivering it almost perfectly.
I even spun on that stage (for real, I spun in a big ole’ circle, a scripted move of course).
I walked off, took my seat and breathed a sigh of relief. I just knew I had done well and was anxious to get feedback.
Because I thought I was fantastic.
As the event finished and I stood at my table, waiting for the first of what would surely be many women to come talk to me.
But they didn’t.
Hmmmmmmm. “That’s kinda weird.” I thought.
I waited a bit longer… still nothing.
I walked around the room and tried to casually make eye contact (is this even possible without being creepy?), but I was getting zero interaction with folks.
“What’s wrong with them?” I thought.
I finally found someone I knew, and we chatted a bit, she said my talk was good.
However, my uneasy feeling persisted.
Eventually, unable to take the awkwardness of wandering around looking for someone else to talk to I made my way to the door.
I left having only talked to one person. Not the crowds of women I had imagined.
I drove home, feeling deflated and confused. I’d done everything that I knew to be prepared for this talk. I tossed and turned all night.
What the heck happened?
Why didn’t anyone talk to me?
It should’ve been, in my mind, one of the best talks I’d given.
But it wasn’t.
It took a conversation with one of my mentors and some time alone to think through what went wrong.
My talk flopped because I made the worst possible mistake as a speaker.
I made the talk all about me.
Now you’re thinking “Hold up Alex, this is Public Speaking 101 stuff here… don’t you know better?”
Yep, sure do. But, I’m also human, and I got caught up in dreaming about speaking. Like you’ve done when you’ve been asked to speak in public.
You get caught up in the excitement, nerves, the “what am I going to do” part of speaking and presenting. You plan, you say stuff over and over again in your head, and you visualize your performance because you want to do well.
But when you’re all caught up in thinking about your stuff, you forget the MOST important part…your audience.
Your audience is smart, they know when you’ve focused way too hard on what you want to get out of the talk, and they know when you’re giving them something because you want to share and connect with them.
(it’s hard to connect with people if you’re only thinking about yourself)
So, how can you tell if you’re making your upcoming talk all about you?
Take a step back from your daydreams and ask yourself these questions;
1.) When I’m finished talking, what’s the one thing that I want my audience to walk away remembering?
It’s definitely not you spinning around like a nut.
2.) Am I talking about what my audience wants/expects to hear or what I want to say?
If you find yourself using the word “I” frequently, that’s a warning sign that you’re talking from your own perspective too much.
3.) When I walk away from this talk, how will I know I achieved success?
If your goal is to have crowds of people coming up to you afterward to give you positive feedback, you need a new goal.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with picturing yourself on the “big stage” in front of cheering crowds or getting high fives after presenting to your team. In fact, it’s pretty darn normal if you like speaking to others and have a message you feel passionate about sharing.
Just be sure that as you prepare, you don’t forget who you’re preparing for…focus on them, and the good things you want will come.
What questions do you ask yourself before you speak? Share your thoughts below and be sure to click on the follow button and never miss a post from me!