How I overcame my fear of public speaking through visual preparation.
Ten years ago, I first stepped out onto the intimidating red circle on the TED stage. I was so nervous I tripped over the rug and feared no words would come out. It was a life-changing moment. Since then, I’ve been privileged to give hundreds of talks alongside many brilliant speakers including Sir Ken Robinson, Simon Sinek, Amy Cuddy and Angela Duckworth.
When I first started presenting my ideas, I was intrigued by people’s presence, body language, and particularly their charisma on stage. I thought this was the way to solve my insecurities. Over the past decade, however, I’ve realised what distinguishes a good speaker from a great one, is how they prepare.
Obviously, there is no single or ‘right’ way to prep, but finding what really works for you is critical. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that writing out detailed scripts, mapping out bullet points and using fancy software such as iMap, doesn’t help me. I hate practising out-loud and cringe at the idea of videotaping a rehearsal.
I think visually.
I started my career as an artist so my mind is wired to make complex things simple through design. When I’m on stage you are basically experiencing a visual map of thoughts and ideas I want to share with you.
It looks a bit like this:
ENDPOINT: A simple trick is to start with the endpoint. It sounds “duh” but it took me years to realise how critical it is to give the audience a clear sense of where you want to take them. You’re not giving away the destination but sharing a guide to the journey. (Simon Sinek and Adam Grant are masters of this technique.) Talks never quite click when you are not clear on the final destination; the place you want your audience to get to.
I’ve found it is less about the ‘big aha’ (an overrated concept) but rather the state you want participants to walk away in.
“How do I want them to feel?” should be equally…