Speaking to an audience can be an emotional rollercoaster – daunting, overwhelming and stimulating all at the same time. I’ve had moments where I felt I spoke well and my message resonated with the audience, but I kept doubting myself. In fact, I thought one of my most recent talks fell flat but the feedback was great!
When we put ourselves “out there” in any capacity, sometimes we need to take a step back and understand that there will be some instances that are completely out of our control. We need to accept that things can happen which might derail us. The key is to not let these things deflate us – instead, use them as a learning tool to improve ourselves.
I call it the Acceptance Rule.
Accept that some of the audience might not like what we say. They may not resonate with our message, no matter how well prepared we are, how we deliver it or how much we believe in it – it just may not be partial to everyone
Accept that most of our audience will want us to succeed and present well so that we give them a talk worth listening to and is of value.
Accept that something could throw us off track. It could be a phone ringing, an unexpected question or interruption, or we could just forget to say something.
Accept that we will be nervous.
Accept that sometimes, despite giving it our all, we may feel as though we didn’t do enough and that we might feel deflated.
Accept that other times we might feel that we’ve done an incredible job but in fact, it actually wasn’t as good as we had thought! It’s a delicate balancing act and we have to learn to come to terms with it.
Accept that there will always be some people in the audience who will be distracted. They might be texting or whispering to their neighbour and not even listening which can even be really disheartening – but don’t take it personally. Did you know some research suggests that the human attention span only averages about 8 seconds?!
Accept that we might forget to say something, we might make a mistake, or we might not even end up delivering our talk in the structure we had originally intended – but it’s not the end of the world. One of my previous articles reminds us that Nobody Else Knows if we forget to say something!
Accept that some people will be afraid to provide us with critical feedback because they don’t want to hurt our feelings. Seek out people who we provide us us with good, honest feedback because it’s the only way to improve.
And finally, accept that it’s all part of a development process and no matter how many times we speak, there is always room for improvement.
I’ve seen my fair share of speakers – from students right through to handsomely paid speakers and hundreds of TED and TEDx talks and so far, I’ve only seen a handful of talks which I felt were flawless.
Esther Perel delivered a stunning talk on Rethinking Infidelity in 2015 and it ranks as one of the best talks I have ever seen. Of course, this is my opinion and I accept that some may not agree with me.
When we apply the Acceptance Rule it all comes down to reminding ourselves who we are, why we do what we do, setting expectations and most importantly making sure we enjoy ourselves.