Part of Donald Trump’s fame arose from his role as the CEO on the hit television show, “The Apprentice.” He is known for pronouncing with no small amount of relish, “You’re fired!” to the unlucky apprentice du jour. Related: How To Address Being Fired In A Job Interview While people may have liked the show for its flair, if you have ever been on the receiving end of the “You’re fired” message, it isn’t entertaining at all. My dad was fired from a job that he had loved for ten years. That happened when I was in the 6th grade. I was also on the scene when it happened because my mom had driven my brother, sister, and me in our new 1965 Ford Galaxy 500 (barely a week old) to meet my father on a Friday afternoon before leaving for our annual summer vacation to the mountains. We happened to arrive just as his supervisor was delivering the bad news. To say that it was a devastating blow to my father would be no small statement. We went ahead with our vacation, and when we returned, we traveled as a family to the corporate headquarters where he made his case and offered a plea for a second chance. The answer was a firm, “No.” After another ten years went by, not coincidentally perhaps, my dad’s successor was fired just before he was eligible for being vested in the company’s pension plan. Suddenly it occurred to us all that the company had a pattern of keeping people on until they were about to be vested in the pension, and then they found a reason to terminate them. Not that it changed anything for my dad, but I think that realization helped to restore to some degree his otherwise wounded ego. Perhaps he was let go because he was about to be vested in the pension instead of because of the reasons he was given at the time. Needless to say, that experience has stayed with me in spite of the fact that it happened over 50 years ago. I still remember that warm summer afternoon when I realized that my daddy was being fired from his job. In his case, once we were back from vacation, he had a new job by the end of the day on Monday, his first day out looking. The economy was very different back then. He knew a lot about a lot of things, and he became an auto parts salesman. Later he tried his hand at insurance sales, and he did okay with that. Later he tried vacuum cleaner sales (I bought one from him) and then he worked part-time for the US postal service as a substitute mail carrier. He didn’t love any of those jobs the way he loved the one he worked in for ten years, however, and even though he never went more than a few days between jobs, it took a toll on my parents’ marriage. My mother complained that we kids needed to change his place of employment every school year, which was a slight exaggeration but was a measure of her discontent over his not being able to find something permanent that he liked and supported the family the way they would have liked. Needless to say, the economic landscape has changed a lot since those days, and if you are fired today, it is unlikely that you will be able to land something by the end of business on Monday after taking a week’s vacation between jobs. It can happen because anything is possible, I suppose, but it isn’t all that likely. Back in the “old days” you grabbed a paper and started circling the job postings. You made the rounds in person and met the decision-makers who were often in their office and willing to talk to you if you dropped by to offer an application for the open position. Electronic applications were a thing of the future, and you didn’t have to worry so much about a resume because you hadn’t worked at that many places. Jobs seemed to be steadier and more abundant back then. The entire landscape of job search has changed today. You need to get savvy very quickly about what goes into an effective and productive job search.
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!