How do you start public speaking?
Well, here are five ways I went from being terrified of going onto a stage to enjoying the experience of delivering a presentation.
- Volunteer to run a small discussion group
- Facebook Live
- Attend a public speaking workshop
- Volunteer to talk in a community group
- Practice, practice, practice
Err… that’s rather vague, David. Please explain.
OK. Here we go. Let’s start at school…
Young David, the Monotone and Boring Speaker
I knew my turn would eventually arrive. And I feared it.
The only consolation was my surname began with a W – so I was near to the last on the class register.
You see, once a week, we had a school assembly in the classroom.
And now my turn to speak had finally come.
So I took the easy option.
I read something from a magazine.
Monotone. Long. Boring.
I still remember the teacher politely trying to get me to finish.
A Few Words
Life went on. I left school and started work.
And like avoiding the plague, I avoided anything that might require me to speak in public.
Then one day, I was asked to lead a small church group.
It was a discussion group. My role was to facilitate it and encourage… err… discussion.
No “public speaking” was needed.
So I accepted it.
Sometimes, at the end of a discussion, I summed things up in a few words.
So my confidence began to grow.
Roll on to the 21st Century, and new media.
I enjoyed writing. Creating content.
So I joined the Content Marketing Academy.
It was a wonderful community of like-minded people.
Suddenly, Chris Marr, the CMA’s Founder, announced that we would be doing a challenge.
We would be using a new live-video facility that Facebook had created, to do a…
Facebook Live 30 Day Challenge.
I was apprehensive.
But I felt this might give me some good experience. And the live videos could be as long or as short as I wanted.
But what could I talk about?
I decided to tell a joke. Live. Every day for 30 days.
So I practised lots, off-air. Then I spoke directly to the camera on my phone and tried to make people laugh.
Positive feedback arrived from Facebook friends and fellow CMA-ers.
And my confidence grew a bit more.
By the end of the 30 days, I was totally enjoying the experience.
Public Speaking – The Leap
I had identified a big need.
But I didn’t know how to address it.
Technology was developing fast. But it was leaving some people behind.
So I wanted to address that – by simplifying technology and digital.
But I couldn’t speak to a group. I couldn’t teach. That wasn’t my thing.
Something had to change.
So I made a financial investment.
I enrolled on the World Class Communications workshop.
On the train journey up to Edinburgh, I wasn’t quite sure how it would go.
You see… this was going to be much more than sitting down to listen to some public-speaking principles from a lecturer.
Well… in a moment of madness, I’d volunteered to be one of only two people who were going to do a three-minute talk and get feedback from the incredible public speaker and master communicator, Marcus Sheridan.
So I was totally committed.
The day went great. Some useful exercises and lots of practical information from Marcus.
And then it was my turn.
I’d practised the three-minute talk dozens of times at home. So I was reasonably confident. But it still didn’t stop me shaking.
Anyway, I stood and delivered.
And the feedback I got from Marcus and the audience was incredibly helpful.
But most importantly… something happened in me.
My confidence took a huge leap.
Official Public Speaking: When It Becomes Real
When I sat across the table from Chevon in Postcode, a nice rustic coffee house in Wigan, I knew I was committed.
“Chevon, I have an idea for a community group.”
And I shared with her my vision for what became Tech it Easy, a community group that takes techie and digital topics and makes them mega-easy.
“Ooh! When can you start, David?” asked Chevon.
So the Tech it Easy workshops began.
Nowadays, once a month, I present a new topic for around 45 minutes.
And it’s talking to a public audience.
Yep, real people in a real seminar room.
I do have lots of slides to help me along. And I do pause for question and answer slots. And I do practice every presentation about 10 times at home.
But I enjoy each presentation.
Nope… I love them!
I have more exciting plans for Tech it Easy. The future’s bright.
But it started because of a financial investment into my own development. That one-day workshop in Edinburgh.
How Can YOU Enjoy and Master Public Speaking?
So how can you go from fearing public speaking to enjoying it?
Well, let me remind you of some of the steps I took:
- Led a small discussion group
- Facebook Live
- Attended a speaking workshop
- Volunteered to run a community group
- Practice practice, practice
- Continually learning
Hey, there are now six points, David!
Yeah, that last point… I’m continually learning.
Learning Public Speaking Skills
Even last week, I bought Paul Scanlon‘s Communication Masterclass audio course. Paul’s an expert at teaching communication skills, having honed his craft of speaking on stages around the world for decades.
In 2020, I bought David Nihill’s Hacking Public Speaking course. David’s a brilliant comedian, lecturer, and author of Do You Talk Funny (which I’ve also read and recommend) – so he knows his craft and how to teach it.
Yep, you can learn lots from people like Paul and David.
There are other paths you can take, such as your local Toastmasters group.
You could even hire your own personal speaking coach.
Small Steps to Public Speaking
But what worked best for me was taking small steps, and building confidence with each step.
Sometimes that meant being a tad out of my comfort zone, such as when I did Facebook Live. But by picking a topic I enjoyed and felt comfortable with, I was able to grow that bit more confident…
Until one day I found myself lecturing to an enthusiastic class of people who were eager to listen and learn.
How on earth did that happen?!?
Speaking on a Cruise Ship
Since publishing this blog post, I was invited to be a guest speaker on a cruise ship.
The boutique ship, Saga Spirit of Adventure.
And oh boy! What a great experience.
Were you nervous, David?
Hey, who wouldn’t be?
Especially on your first presentation when you see people turning up in the theatre… to listen to you.
But the nerves soon disappeared as I began to deliver the lecture.
I suppose the secret was I’d practised each one over and over again in the cabin.
But it was worth taking the time to do that.
The feedback afterwards was incredibly rewarding.
What did you talk about, David?
Technology, of course. I simplified technology. Just like in Tech it Easy.
It was also shown live (and on catchup) on the ship’s cabins’ TVs.
Here’s a short clip from that.
A short excerpt from one of the lectures on the Saga Spirit of Adventure
The Impossible Dream?
Would that shy younger David have thought he’d be invited to do a series of lectures on a public stage on the high seas?
Never! Absolutely not! Impossible!
But once you start to learn… once you begin to invest into yourself… once you step mildly out of your comfort zone… once you start to share your knowledge with others… you never know where your public speaking will take you.
Oh… by the way… where did the cruise take us?
It took my wife and me to Malta, Croatia, Italy, Gibraltar and Spain…
Not bad for a shy guy who nearly decided not to stand up and speak for 3 minutes.
Afraid of public speaking but want to start? Here's how one person went from avoiding to enjoying public speaking. He shares his progress and tips. #PublicSpeaking Click To Tweet