When I started my speaking career, I could have medaled in self-sabotage.
Bury my voice behind other thought leaders’ ideas, research and opinions… check.
Hustle for significance by using lots of slides and pack them with way too much information… check.
Reject opportunities to show my mistakes, insecurities, humanity… double check.
Of course, I had no idea I was getting in my own way of speaking impact.
It took some time for me to learn the lessons I share in this article for how you can improve your speaking skills.
I erroneously believed that sandwiching everything I said in between advice from experts, having an abundance of visuals, and avoiding my shortcomings was what legit speakers do.
Then, seven years ago this summer, I went to an event where Lisa Nichols was speaking. And watching the immensely talented Ms. Nichols, I had a wake-up call. Lisa spoke with all of us in her audience. She said the kinds of things I wanted to say when I presented, yet stopped myself from saying because I feared they would diminish my credibility.
It’s like what Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman when she struts back to the store where the snooty saleswoman snubbed her earlier. “Big mistake. Huge.”
I realized that if I connected with Lisa, cried with Lisa, and had deep personal discoveries with Lisa, well jeez, then if I stripped away all the posturing I was doing on stage—and spoke the way I spoke to everyone else in my life—then I could have massive impact as a speaker on my audiences (and have a heckuva lot more fun as I did it!).
True connection is a key way you can improve your speaking skills.
In the next presentation I gave, I said the words, If you’re anything like me, and then confessed something I often struggled with. I can’t recall what it was. That I excessively worried about being liked. Or struggled to reconcile my desire to facilitate social change with my desire to earn well. Picked my zits.
Whatevs. You get it.
While it might sound counterintuitive, the more we make clear we are just like the people we are speaking with, the more impact we can have on our audiences. When we admit that we have fears, crises in faith, flatulence… the more trustworthy we become. The more audiences invite us in and let us work our transformational mojo.
(Want more examples for how to ignite genuine transformation as a speaker? To help you improve your speaking skills? Grab this free video training.)
There are lots of phrases that elicit our vulnerability, relatability, and, as a result, create audience connection. If you’re anything like me, followed by a relevant share, is one of my favorites. Improving your speaking skills doesn’t have to be complicated.