Daring to find joy in Public Speaking

You don’t often see joy and public speaking in the same sentence. Fear maybe? Anxiety probably. But joy? Almost never. But wait a minute. What if it was possible to feel the fear of public speaking and do it anyway – maybe even get all the way to feeling joy. The joy of introducing an audience to a new idea, to a fresh view on a subject you care about or to know that you made such an impact you gained your audience’s support for a cause you believe in. There has to be joy in that. 

It’s become such a given that public speaking is terrifying that people get it into their heads that public speaking is worse than death. A lot of public speaking advice is about surviving. Which is a heck of a long way from joy. 

There are two things that need to happen for you to start moving the needle toward joy when you speak to your next audience whether it’s around a boardroom table, the kitchen table or on a stage in an auditorium. 

One, you need to change your mindset and reframe the speaking opportunity.  

Two, you need to prepare, prepare, prepare and then deliver.

Changing your mindset means changing how you see yourself when you step in front of an audience to deliver a speech or a presentation, that negative self-talk that says “I’m not good at this”, or “Just let me get through this”.

To get to the joy of public speaking or as close as you can, the first step is to identify yourself as a confident public speaker.

Identify yourself as a confident public speaker

I’m not talking about visualizing giving your speech. I’m talking about changing your mindset about how you see yourself. Yes, it’s a head trip. It requires letting go of a fixed belief about yourself as a public speaker and embracing the possibility of a new identify as a confident public speaker. Reframing your speech not as something to survive but as an opportunity to share your thoughts and opinions. One day you might even say, “I’m starting to enjoy this!” 

The second thing that needs to happen to get to the joy of public speaking, is to prepare. There are dozens if not hundreds of books on the subject of preparing for a speech or presentation so I won’t get into the weeds on the “how”.

I will say, that the more authentic you are the more you will connect and engage with your audience. You need to be clear about the purpose of your speech. Is your goal to inform, educate, influence, entertain, draw support? Why should the people in the room give up something precious – their time – to hear what you have to say? 

Speech craft is an art and a science. We’re hardwired for stories. And storytelling is part of the “spine” of a good speech. 

I love writing speeches and a key for me is to not only help shape my client’s message but to find their voice. Not just the language but a speech structure that keeps an audience listening and engaged. At all costs I avoid the “string of pearls” speech which bumps along as this happened and then this happened and then that happened. 

If speech writing is not your strength, get professional help. Then practice. Practice until you “own” it. 

Practice until you “own” it

I once heard Canadian music band manager Bruce Allen deliver an amazing off-the-cuff speech to a business group in which he broke a lot of speech presentation rules and still came close to getting a standing ovation. But unless you’re Bruce Allen, don’t try to wing it.  

Speeches are written for the ear so rehearse your speech out loud. Record it and listen to it over and over. All those words you agonized over don’t mean anything if people can’t understand them. When I coach my client’s presentations, I’m always mindful of the words they might trip over, where sentences need to be shorted for emphasis or give space to take a breath; to what needs repeating and where they can introduce the power of the pause. 

Imagine the feeling you will have when you step in front of an audience with your new identity as a confident public speaker. When that mindset and your preparation lead to a compelling performance that connects with your audience. That you’ve made the butterflies you were feeling fly in formation. 

That you felt the joy of public speaking.