A certain man, we’ll call him Patrick, was in dire financial straits. His business was failing, his wife had left him, and he was behind in his mortgage payments. Patrick’s desperation was so strong that he started playing the Lottery. Related: 5 Ways To Get A Job After several months without winning the Lottery, Patrick became really desperate, and decided to go to church to pray. He sat in a back pew, so as not to disturb anyone else, and started praying. “Oh, God,” he prayed, “You can see how badly off I am. Please, please, please let me win the Lottery.” A week later, he still hadn’t won the Lottery. So he went back to church. “God, this is Patrick. I’ve been Your faithful servant for many years. I really need to win the Lottery.” Another week went by. Still no Lottery winnings. This time, Patrick didn’t even bother with church, he sank down to his knees in his living room. “Oh, God, are you sure you have the right Patrick? I’m Patrick O’Donaghue, and I’m from—” Just then a blinding light filled the living room, and a thunderous voice said, “Patrick, my son. Help me out here. Buy a ticket.” I tell this story to demonstrate the best-kept secret to job-hunting success: You won’t get anywhere without plunging in. “What do you mean, Jack?” you demand. “I have a resume, and it’s posted on Monster.” To this I say, Good for you. But what else are you doing to market yourself? Are you on LinkedIn? Are you on Facebook? Twitter? Do you post regularly to these sites? What LinkedIn groups do you belong to? What message are you posting about yourself? If you’re going to get anywhere, you have to plunge right in. That means making sure your resume will show a prospective employer how you can solve his or her problem(s). Sometimes it means convincing that employer that his or her house is on fire, and that you’re the fire fighter. How about your LinkedIn profile? Are you one of those people who doesn’t show your face? Do you understand why a picture is so important? And yes, I get that you’re worried about putting your picture out there. Just please be aware that LinkedIn advises that you are 14 times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have a photo. Let’s face it; humans are visual. And we want to do business with people we know, like, and trust. In the case of a LinkedIn photo, the adage is correct that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And what else have you done to draw attention to yourself? Do you at least repost material you find that may interest your prospective customers or employers? Do you blog? YOU: “Who, me? Write a blog? Myself?” Yes, you. Writing isn’t the horrible fate you’ve always thought it was. When the teacher assigned a 500-word composition as a punishment, she or he never realized that you weren’t learning your lesson, you were learning to hate writing, to associate it with being punished. So try. If you fail, try again. And again. Read blogs you like, and try to approximate what they do. Read everything you can get your hands on. You’re probably going to be using your native language, for crying out loud. Make your first attempts offline, in MS Word or some other word processing app. If you devote just 15 to 30 minutes each day to writing, you’ll get better. You’ll at least get good enough to write your own blog posts. Do you post to Facebook and Twitter? On LinkedIn, have you joined any groups that interest you? Try answering a few posts, as writing practice for your blog. The important thing through all of this is that you need to explore ways to get yourself known. The old way, where you just walked into the company and filled out an application, is no longer viable. Today’s world demands that you show your value, that you network with others. You need to take an active role in selling yourself. As the Lord said to Patrick, “Buy a ticket.” This post was originally published at an earlier date.
Public speaking can’t always be avoided in the business world when you’re tapped on the shoulder to give a presentation to your peers or to an important client.
Even in the age of home video conferencing, it’s still very natural to feel like you’d rather do ANYTHING other than turn on that camera, take a deep breath, and feel everyone’s eyes on you…watching.
Ever wonder how actors push through stage fright?
As a trained actor and coach (prior to entering the business world), I’ve learned to not be timid while orating Shakespeare in the spotlight or when hitting those high notes in front of thousands of eyeballs.
Not surprisingly, the same tricks actors use can be applied to public speaking in a business context. Here are some tips from an actor-turned-business-professional on calming your nerves.
Tip #1: Put Yourself In The Audience’s Seats
I always get incredibly nervous right before a singing audition. I’ve found what helps lessen my anxiety is to do as a fellow performer once suggested and put myself in the director’s chair. (The director is typically the person who decides if you are cast in the show).
The director WANTS you to do well! They want you to be the perfect person for the role—able to garner good reviews and box office sales. They want you to do so well that they could even tell everyone else to go home; they’ve found their star.
Plus, no director wants to sit through hours and hours of bad singing auditions…would you?
Likewise with public speaking.
When have you ever found yourself listening to a speaker and wished that they would be boring? Or wanted them to bomb so badly that you get nothing from their talk?
Rather, you probably hope the speaker is so dynamite that you actually forget to take notes because you are so transfixed and inspired by their message.
Know that the audience is on your side and let that encourage you. They want you to do well.
Tip #2: Give ‘Em The Old Razzle-Dazzle
I love to tap dance. Sometimes (ok, quite often), my feet don’t move as quickly as they should and I mess up a step or two…or ten.
A choreographer once taught me that a major part of dancing, and where the audience usually focuses, is all in the face and arms. If you are smiling a 1,000-watt smile and making grand arm gestures, the audience isn’t likely to see that your feet messed up that paradiddle step. (Yes, that’s a real thing!)
Public speaking also follows this rule. The audience can’t tell that you are nervous and feel like you just might pass out.
Bluff it! Put on your smile and stand tall. Walk with purpose and speak with authority, even if you feel unsure of yourself. It can feel weird, but you have to trust me here.
When you act as if you are confident, the audience will assume you are confident. Your body will even convince your brain into believing that you are, in fact, confident!
What if you DO mess up? So what? Keep going! Don’t drop your poise and strong voice, as they are effectively drawing attention away from any insecurities that may come up, just like jazz hands can help cover for missing a step-shuffle-ball-change.
Tip #3: Enter The Clown
Actors have learned that mistakes are bound to happen and sometimes you have to play the fool.
For instance, props or scenery may break or fall unexpectedly during a show. Actors are taught to pretend like it is supposed to happen, and work it into the scene. Or they may quickly remove the wayward item and simply continue on.
I’ve even witnessed actors stumble and fall onstage, then make a comment about what a klutz they are (in character, of course!) and continue on like it was scripted that way.
Let’s say during your speech you trip up on some words unexpectedly. Work it into the presentation as if you meant for it to happen. For example: “The biggest finanbial chamanges…a-hem, well those lesser-known things…as well as the biggest financial challenges we face are…”
Call yourself out and you get an on-the-spot joke to lighten the mood—and the audience loves you for it.
Or let’s say you knock over your glass of water while speaking. That’s the perfect time to make a crack about how uncoordinated you are and why you never made the basketball team. (*Rimshot please!*)
Tip #4: “Once Again From The Top, Ah-5-6-7-8!”
Actors spend hours, days…weeks! memorizing their lines to be “word perfect” right down to the smallest pause. They get every tilt of the head, every gesture, and every single word into muscle memory.
When opening night comes, no matter how much their stomach is turning over like they’re on a cruise ship in a hurricane, they can effectively put themselves on autopilot and get through the show without a hitch.
Now, with this tip, I would NEVER recommend that you, as a public speaker, go to the extremes actors do.
Why? Memorizing isn’t necessary for public speaking. In fact, I strongly suggest you don’t memorize, as you risk coming off as “fake.”
Rehearsing on the other hand is a must!
Rehearse in front of a mirror…while shopping for groceries…in front of a friend. Video or audio record yourself and play it back.
If possible, practice in the actual space where you will be speaking (yes, even if it’s in your home office) to get a feel for it so that it doesn’t disorient you on the big day.
Your goal is to know your main points and examples while allowing yourself to improvise here and there with different words and phrases to keep it fresh.
If you try to memorize and you forget a sentence while speaking, it has the tendency to really trip you up unless you’re a seasoned pro. However, if you practice experimenting with different ways of saying things, you’re building your quick-thinking prowess and ability to handle the unexpected while in the spotlight.
Notes are, of course, perfectly acceptable, but you don’t want to stay buried in your notes resulting in never making eye contact with the audience (or webcam).
Another no-no is clearly reading from a script while on a video conference. Reading a script is one of the best ways to disengage the audience unless you are very good at making it sound conversational…a tough skill to master.
Instead, know your speech so well that glancing at the first few words on a notecard will propel you into that part of the speech, without having to constantly refer to your notes.
Remember that public speaking is one fear that, with a little practice and the right mindset, can be overcome. Who knows, you may start to crave the spotlight so much that I’ll see you at the next audition!