Become a Better Speaker; Talk to Yourself

Ah meeting facilitation.  It is an art form, it is.  It is so much so that one of my goals this quarter is to publish an online course on meeting facilitation.

There is plenty of advice out there on how to become a more confident speaker and presenter.  The easiest and most accessible one to me, the most bang for your buck is this:  talk to yourself.

When I had to speak in a company-wide meeting I was terrified.  Public speaking truly made me nervous, my heart rate would skyrocket (my apple watch would check in on me to see if I needed medical assistance…).  Yet ahead of that, when I was asked to present, I had to go for it.  One of my more annoying qualities is facing my fears like I’m jumping off a cliff. So, cutting to the chase, I went for it and I was scared.

How could I possibly be comfortable speaking to over 300 people if I couldn’t even speak to myself”

My method started with writing word for word what my brain wanted to say as a stream of consciousness.  It was messy, it was frenetic, but it was in my voice.  Then I did something that felt very uncomfortable: I read it out loud, alone.  I read it again and again as if I had people in front of me. I caught myself getting tripped up, stumbling on myself, and it initially felt embarrassing.  But I realized how could I possibly be comfortable speaking to over 300 people if I couldn’t even speak to myself. 

Eventually I abandoned that ad hoc script and just continued practicing and speaking to myself and the embarrassment subsided.  I felt confident alone, and in turn, felt confident in front of the masses.  It had become conversational for me which took the pressure off my heartrate and allowed me to be more at ease.

I’ve used this not just in presentations but also in regular meetings I’m running.  If I know a call is going to be drama, I write out an opening statement that I speak out loud ahead of that call to set the tone.  Now, I toss that statement out so it doesn’t sound like I’m reading from a piece of paper, but for today, our focus is only on talking to yourself.  Other meeting preparation and facilitation tips are for another day.

If you get better at speaking to yourself, I encourage you to take it a step further, record yourself. Watch it, see how you’re speaking, how you come across and how you can improve.  But for now, baby steps, and get comfortable talking to yourself.