I get many people to answer questions when I write my books, to find out what they think. The most common thing identified that both men and women are afraid to do is to speak in front of a group. Many would rather die that have the attention on them, whether it’s for a meeting at work, making a toast at wedding, or at a workshop that offers the chance to ask questions or give your opinion. Fear of saying the wrong thing or being received poorly can motivate avoiding these situations at all costs.
When you dodge speaking in front of a group because you’re scared, you can miss out on good opportunities.
In my DoorMat days I’d go to any lengths not to speak to more than one person at a time. Bigger groups intimidated me and my lips would feel crazy glued together. I was so insecure that I couldn’t imagine speaking without stumbling over my words or saying something stupid. I’d be at a panel and think something good to say. Others seemed to have it easy going up to the mic and chatting with the panelists. But, as I thought about raising my hand, my mouth would get dry and my heart beat so fast from fear that I couldn’t imagine how I’d get the words out without collapsing.
When I was trying to build my record label years ago, I went to a big music conference. I was on the cusp of building confidence—not yet there but knowing I had to take risks to succeed. One panel stirred some questions that I thought were provocative and would add some interesting elements to the discussion. Asking required me to explain what I was doing. I sat there, practicing what I’d say in my head, taking deep breaths to calm down and giving myself a silent pep talk. “I can do it!” In the past, I never got to the mic because I waited too long to get up. But I knew what had to be done.
Taking risks can reap the biggest rewards.
I wanted to move forward and got my butt out of the seat. Slowly, I got in line behind other people waiting to speak. Part of me prayed the panel would end before they got to me; a bigger part prayed that wouldn’t happen. I wondered if people could tell I was trembling as I continued to do deep breathing to build my courage. I’ll never forget how I felt when the guy in front of me finished. It was my turn. Too late to back out! I slowly stated my point and asked my question. People perked up and the panelists liked what I said.
Taking control of the fear of speaking up feels great when you get to the other side, even if it doesn’t got as well as you’d have liked. You should be proud of doing it at.
My rewards made it worthwhile to endure the stress of waiting on the line to speak. People came to me to say they loved what I said and asked for my card. And, a celebrity panelist—Ice-T—came over to speak to me. After that, I put a lot of thought into finding something “brilliant” to say on the mic at conferences, so people would know who I was. That led to meeting a lot of good people who helped me in my career.
People who speak up aren’t free of fear. They just push themselves to speak anyway.
People who know me are surprised that I still get nervous before being on a TV show or speaking in front of a group. It gets easier as you do it more often but for most of us, it doesn’t get easy. Speaking in front of large groups is part of my profession so I had to learn to get past the fear with steps to calm down and you can too:
• Take slow deep breaths through you nose and then ever more slowly let it out though your mouth. In any nervous situation, this can take the edge off of nervousness, slow down your heart rate and make you feel more relaxed.
• Be prepared! Know well what you plan to speak about. The more you research or read or learn about the topic you plan to speak about, the more confidence you’ll have and the better you’ll sound.
• Think before you speak. Don’t just blurt something out on the fly. I let possibilities ruminate in my head for a while before I open my mouth. I also think of ideas before I even go out. Saying something that sounds good helps you attract people for networking or making money!
• Do affirmations. I’ve been waiting for my turn to speak or ask a question and felt my insides quaking. That’s when I repeat things in my head to build confidence. “I will sound fabulous when I speak.” Before appearing on TV shows, I sometimes go to the mirror and repeat to myself that I’m really good and can make a great impression. Over and over. Damn! I really am good! ?
• Start small to build confidence. Speak up in a small group, then at a work meeting where you can come in prepared. The more you speak up and see that the world doesn’t implode, the easier it becomes.
• Accept that everyone makes mistakes and if you stumble over a word or goof up in some way, it’s okay. Laugh and move on. People don’t remember for long, if at all. Just focus on the message you want to get across.
• Use your spiritual power. I look up and say thanks for support in sounding good when I speak. The more I feel supported, the more confident I become. I’ve put my words into the Universe’s hands and then I know I can do it well.
Lat week I went to an intro class at Mama Gena’s School of the Womanly Arts. It’s an amazing program that pushes women to be the best they can be. They also encourage bragging and Mama Gena walked around with a mic, asking women to stand up and brag. Those who did mainly knew her already and had been through her program. There were over 250 women there. I had to speak so I raised my hand! The mic was passed to me and I gave a short rundown of my accomplishments. I got huge applause and made some fabulous contacts with women who came up to me after because of what I said.
Speaking up brings MANY rewards! Build your courage and try it! The more you do it, the more you’ll have the confidence to do it more. That confidence can carry over to other areas of your life and help you progress in your life journey, no matter where you’re going!
NOTE: I will be starting Mama Gena’s Mastery program next month and will share some of the lessons here.