A month ago, I gave a keynote speech at the World Domination Summit (WDS). Standing in front of an audience of 3,000, I spoke with my heart to share my story, learning and the vision for a world without the fear of rejection. It was a magical moment. After receiving a long and emotional standing ovation, I kept getting this question from the people I subsequently met – your talk was so great, were you nervous at all?
My talk at WDS
The truth was, I was as nervous as a I could be. The stage was shared by all-star speakers and bestselling authors such as Gretchen Rubin, Nancy Duarte and Donald Miller. It was going to be tough to measure up. Before my talk, I paced back and forth in the preparation room. I tweeted that it felt like the opening scene of 8 Miles. A staff member even took pity on me and offered to teach me how to stretch, so I could calm my nerves. How could a guy this nervous looked so calm on stage?
Here are five things I did:
1. Prepare hard – nothing can substitute hardcore preparation and rehearsal, both physically and mentally. Physically, I rehearsed this talk for about 25 times. Mentally, to toughen myself up I even did a rejection session to give my talk on the street in from of strangers. At WDS, I kept telling myself, if I could connect with strangers on the street, I can connect with these people who paid to be here. If you prepare through tireless practice, you can always fall back on your experience.
2. Accept fear – The nerve kept me focused and prepared. I found that if I were too relaxed and start to feel cocky, that’s when I get in trouble. So I conquered the fear by embracing it, just like what I did with rejection therapy. When you accept the fear and still do it because it is a worthy cause, that’s when you are at your best.
3. Control self-talk – before a speech, what really messes people up is the negative self-talk they have in their head. I steered away from negative ones such as “what if they don’t like me?” Also, I avoid any traditional positive thinking or “declarative self-talks” such as “I can do it”. “I am gonna rock the audience”. In his latest book To Sell Is Human, bestselling author Dan Pink talked about the power of “interrogative self-talk”. So I asked myself “will I connect with the audience with my story?” The answer was an unequivocal ‘yes’.
4. Love the audience – this sounds corny, but it is very powerful. Love is one of the strongest emotions in the universe. Before my speech, I talked to many attendees, learning their struggles and aspirations. I loved each one of them, and knew my message of overcoming the fear of rejection would help them. It was my duty to deliver the message in the most loving and caring way. When you love someone, it will show through the way you talk.
5. Start with ‘I’ - I love great speeches. One of the things that turns me off the most about a speech is when speakers start too many sentences with the word ‘you’. While conventional thinking encourages us to say ‘you’ to make sentences meaningful to the listener, those talks would always feel like lectures and even authorities talking down on people. For me, I always like the word ‘I’, because I don’t want to speak for others. I want to share my story and learning from my perspective, and leave it to the audience to judge. I always tell myself to remember: ‘inspiration’ starts with ‘I’.
Is this helpful to you to overcome the fear of public speaking? Also, what is your experience with speaking?
Bonus: my hangout with speech coach Dr. Michelle Mazur: