Capitalize on Your Strengths!
Many of us became speakers – or want to become speakers – for one of two reasons:
1. Saw some great speakers (or one great speaker), like Anthony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Seth Godin, Barack Obama…. or maybe it was a religious leader at your church or one you saw on TV… or perhaps it was a little-known speaker that you saw at a conference…AND you thought “One day I want to be like that guy!”
2. You had an experience, or a series of experiences, that lead you to believe strongly in something – something that deeply affected your life and now you want to share that message with the world
If you decided to become a speaker due to reason #1 above, chances are that you are trying to emulate your “hero”… at times it’s not even a conscious decision, you just simply compare your stage performance to the performance of the speaker you admire.
Now… those who decided to become a speaker due to reason #2 above, often will just go out there and speak, and be themselves; because they have a message and they want to spread that message. HOWEVER, this group of speaker is not always exempt from trying to monkey – I mean, mimic – other successful speakers…
Don’t Set Yourself Up for Failure!
Fact is, however, when you try to be like Anthony Robbins, or whoever you are looking up to, you are setting yourself up for failure. There is only one Anthony Robbins and he is great because he has his own style – Anthony Robbins’s style. And, if you want to be great, you should strive to become the best “you” you can become, by finding and capitalizing on your strengths and developing your own style.
Capitalize on Your Strengths!
Anthony Robbins’ strengths are his high energy, loud voice, great enthusiasm, passion for his topic, knowledge of NLP and other behavior-modifying techniques, etc.
What are your strengths? Make an inventory…
When I started speaking, my goal was to be the next Anthony Robbins… I admit it. Yet when I spoke, I never saw myself as even coming close to his performance. Before each of my presentations I’d stay awake for nights prior to my speaking engagement, or wake up often in the middle of the night with a giant pain in my chest, and getting frequent panic attacks: “What if I screw up? What if I forget what I have to say? What if I make a full out of myself? …” It was physically painful – really painful. And while I did ok with my presentations, I soon noticed that I’ll never be the next Anthony Robbins.
I noticed that I’m very different and I have very different strengths… I also noticed that I had strengths that I did not know I had, such as a humorous delivery style (no matter the subject), a conversational tone, connecting easily with my audience, love of interaction with audience members…
It took me about 2 years to develop my own style and be comfortable in my “skin.” For the first 2-years I tried to be what I was not (trying to monkey other great speakers), while I also tried to be extremely “politically correct,” so I wouldn’t offend anyone in my audience…
Starting in about my 3rd year of speaking I started to relax. I learned that the only way to truly succeed as a speaker is to allow yourself to be “you”; and I noticed that when I allowed myself to be “me,” I was much more comfortable in front of the audience… AND when finally I allowed myself to be the Real Me (dropped the need to be “politically correct” all the time), now I really have a blast with my presentations, and I can tell that most of my audience members enjoy the “new” me (which in fact is the “old me” – the real me – who I tried to hide since I thought I needed to be like someone else).
I’ve been speaking now, full time, for close to a decade and I can tell you with 100% conviction that AUTHENTICITY is the way to go.
- Allow yourself to be Real YOU in front of the crowd (with the caveat that, if you are speaking at a slow speech rate and tend to go way too deep into details… then speed up your speech rate a bit and balance your detail-spills with short stories, group activities, and other interactive activities…. Except if you speak to highly technical audiences, such as computer programmers, engineers, etc., then you can go into as much detail as you want, but still speed up your speech rate a bit AND vary your tone – you don’t your audience members to fall as asleep; or worse, die of boredom.)
- Find and capitalize on your strengths (while you’ll find some of your strengths by sitting down and making an inventory, you will find some of your strengths while you speak – record yourself each time you can, and watch your performance; watch your audience’s reaction to your presentation: when did they seem most engaged? What did they find funny? What part of the presentation did they seem to enjoy most? … then capitalize on what you learn – do more of what worked and less of what didn’t)
- Don’t be afraid to pick a side! If you try to please everyone, you won’t gain true fans. Verbalize your biases and beliefs once in a while (don’t over do it! And make sure not to go into extremes when you are paid to deliver training to a corporate client – getting repeat gigs is more important than letting the audience know about your biases and beliefs)
- Always give your audience a Feedback form. Throughout the years I collected thousands of feedback forms and learned a lot through these little pieces of paper. Of course…, at times you’ll read things that will not be too nice, but again, you can’t please everyone at all times, and that’s ok. Always analyze if the comment has merit; if it does, improve your act; if it doesn’t crumple up the sucker and throw it in the trash can.
I know speakers who do not give out Feedback forms out of fear of negative feedback. I’d say that if you don’t get feedback you are missing out on a great tool that can help you grow as a speaker, as well as help you improve your presentations. So I highly recommend it (send me an email to support[at]egSebastian[dot]com if you’d like to get a copy of my feedback form).
Did I leave out anything? Do you have some suggestions on how a speaker can capitalize on his/her strengths? Please put your suggestions (or questions) in the Comments box.
Ok…, I promised myself that I’ll start posting shorter posts, but I screwed up again… next time I’ll try to do better 🙂
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