There are lots of reasons you might feel drawn to speaking: Because you love it, it excites you, you have things you’re dying to share, you want to make it your career. You may also have books to sell and a business to grow, and talking to lots of people at once is ideal.
All perfectly good reasons. Really knowing why you’re there, and what purpose it serves, not just for you, but for the audience, is critical to making an impact. Here’s why.
1 | Public speaking is a public service.
All the obvious reasons aside (income, recognition, status), the real reason you’re there is to offer something that other people will find valuable and can use.
Public speaking is a service, not just a platform. And the speakers who approach the podium that way make a far bigger impact and have better speaking careers than those who don’t.
(P.S. Never use a podium. Seriously. Why would you take your place on stage in full view of everyone, only to crouch behind a box with just your head sticking out?)
2 | You can’t tell a story that still owns you
You might have a story to tell, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to tell it.
TEDx speaker Sarah Montana, whose mother and brother were murdered in their home, knows a thing or two about sharing tough stories. And she says that the stage is not the place to get to the bottom of yours.
That means while you may have a story, it doesn’t mean you’re ready to share it. Ask yourself, do you feel compelled to share it so that you can get it out and figure it out? Or do you feel ready to share it from a position of having found peace with it? (Guess what the right answer is.)
Serving your audience means NOT dumping unsorted emotional baggage onto them and hoping that in the telling it’ll get resolved (it won’t). You can only tell a story when you own it and it no longer owns you.
(If you haven’t watched Sarah’s TEDx talk, “The real risk of forgiveness and why it’s worth it,” it’s a must. There’s no story so personal and hard that you can’t tell, IF—and it’s a big if—you’ve come to terms with it.)
3 | Public speaking is an exchange of energy, not just information.
I know. This sounds a little woo-woo. But it couldn’t be more true. When we think about creating “a talk” it’s easy to get hyper focused on “what will I say”—in other words, what information can I impart?
But while content is critical, and has to be good, it’s not just ‘content first, delivery second.’ You must bear in mind what you want that audience to feel, think, and do from the start—and all of that inspires the talk itself.
Think about the last time you were totally turned off, bored, angered, or annoyed by a speaker. It’s how they made you feel, based on how they couched and communicated information, and what assumptions that speaker made about you.
To think you’re just teaching or giving info to your audience is to undermine your value as a speaker. You’re not there to dispense words. You’re there to change the way they feel about a topic, an industry, an issue, themselves. If you haven’t done that, you haven’t done your job.