Which of these two people do you recognize? 

One: the breezy, charismatic speaker, the one who makes audiences want to lean in and learn, the person who captivates and excites. 

The other one: dry, shy, possibly withdrawn. This is the one who reads their presentation word for word, clears their throat 18 times in as many minutes, the one who makes more eye contact with the exit sign than with anyone in the room. 

So, again, I ask. Which of these two people do you recognize? Or, rather, which of these two people are you? 

If you fall squarely into category two, I want to give you a hug right now and ask you to breathe a sigh of relief. Statistically, up to 75% of the population suffers from glossophobia – the fear of public speaking – so if you’re the kind of person who sweats and snorts at even just the idea of speaking to more than a crowd of one, you’re not alone. 

I’ve been privileged to work with some wonderfully brilliant people, many of whom can dance their way around numbers and data and analytics but who’ve crumbled under the weight of an open stage. So again, not only are you not alone, you’re in good company. 

I’ve found there are three common threads with apprehensive speakers. 

The first is that often, they’re so focused on the information that they turn into slide deck readers, not speakers. They forget there’s an audience – one that’s actually supportive, and more importantly, one eager for education. When we remember, as presenters, to think like teachers, our language naturally changes – and we are reminded of what we know. We’re instantly transported back to our A game, rather than that nervous place where we’re desperately trying to read slide after slide. 

The second is forgetting that there’s a big picture here, an overarching, important message. It’s the chorus to a song, if you will. I see this so often – people build their slide decks so carefully and cautiously (and in some cases, justifiably), but then forget to stand back at a macro level and ask, “What is the conversation I want to have? What is the impact that I really want to make?” And ultimately: “Why am I sharing this information in the first place?” 

And then, the third. This one has everything to do with my favorite element of leadership and personal growth. 

It’s connection. 

Pick one person in the room. It’s tempting to want to make everyone happy. But when there’s one person in the room with whom you’re authentically speaking, one person for whom you’ll make an impact, one person in the room for whom you’ll make a difference – that’s where the magic lives. 

The Big Whipp: It’s natural to be nervous. It’s common to feel on shaky ground when you’ve taken to a stage. But when you remember that you’re there to serve, that your knowledge and compassion and heart and experience can change one life, I promise it will change yours.

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