You see her on TV looking cool and confident. But Barbara Corcoran says she was terrified of speaking. So scared that her heart pounded and her voice vanished. Maybe you can relate?
How’d she get over it? The celebrity investor offers two tips. And I’m going to quibble with one of them.
1. Force yourself to do it. A lot. Barbara told Entrepreneur.com she signed up to teach real estate classes several nights a week. There she was, for six straight years, up in front of a classroom full of people staring back at her. She also forced herself to accept “every speaking engagement that came along.”
2. Tell your audience you’re scared. Barbara said it “worked wonders” for her: “Just say, ‘I’m sorry. Give me a minute, please. I’m scared.’”
I’m with Barbara all the way on Tip #1. The surest way to get comfortable speaking is … to speak. As often as you can, in front of every group you can. I learn something from every audience, refine my material, perfect my timing. Practice is invaluable.
Not so sure about #2, however. I get the concept – be vulnerable with your listeners, be real, be relatable. They’ll understand, and even love you for it.
Here’s my take. I’m human, you’re human, we all have feelings and we can connect on that level and sing “Kumbaya.”
AND the person at the front of the room is there for a reason. They have a responsibility to be a leader. “I’m scared” isn’t the first step to leadership.
Even more than that, when I’m speaking I’m really there to talk about you, sitting there in the audience – to focus on your feelings, your challenges, your opportunities.
It seems self-centered to start out by asking you to understand my feelings, even if my feelings are perfectly understandable and widely shared.
I’m all for being authentic in front of the room; in fact it’s one of the main things I teach my clients. The best speakers are people who show up on stage as the person they really are. And that can mean vulnerability. It can certainly mean sharing something personal and even raw.
But when I talk about my feelings during a program, it’s a really a way to talk about yours. It’s how we establish a connection, a relationship.
Dwelling on my own anxiety or stage fright puts all the focus on me … when it should be on my audience.
I’m not suggesting you should squelch your fear, or pretend that you’re not feeling it. Instead, I recommend that my clients feel their fear, think of the emotion as energy, and use that energy to connect with the people they’re speaking to.
And we don’t have to yammer about the fear to do that.