By Diane Bolden, Executive Coach, Speaker & Author
I never thought I was afraid of public speaking. I’ve facilitated workshops, taught classes, done lectures. I learned to enjoy the feeling of being the center of people’s attention, though in the back of my mind horrible thoughts lurked – like, “What if I let these people down or waste their time? What if the things that come out of my mouth don’t make any sense? What if my presentation is just ho, hum and people start to yawn, or check their blackberries, or tune out altogether?”
I’ve resisted these fears in my past – fought them with long, hard preparation and research and practice. I’ve poured over my subjects, outlining them, dissecting them, breaking the concepts down and then putting them back together. I’ve designed curriculum, carefully constructed to ensure that each learning point was supported, reinforced, tested. I’ve memorized it, dreamt it, ate it for dinner, and regurgitated it again and again and again for practice.
But the more polished and prepared I tried to be, the less I connected with my audience. The less fulfilled all of us came away from the presentation feeling. And my greatest fears became a reality. They were bored. They were restless. They left wanting something more. And so did I.
The truth is, the most powerful and uplifting presentations I have given are those that I really didn’t prepare all that much for. In one case, I actually tore up my notes the night before and stepped in front of an audience with little or no idea of what I was about to say. I was terrified. I felt my heart beating in my mouth. But I set my intention for everyone to feel better after the presentation than they did before it (including me).
Without my carefully constructed script, I tuned into the moment. I dove into the space between each breath. I let go of managing my appearance and went to the rawest place I could find in myself – and proceeded to share things I normally only discussed over coffee with a close friend. I felt my heart begin to open and beat with a new energy and vibrancy. And that energy was reflected back to me by each person in the audience.
I’m intrigued with people who are willing to courageously step on stage and talk about what scares the hell out of them. I enjoy watching the bloopers more than the polished, perfected performance. Let me see you at your most vulnerable. No so that I can feel superior to you, but so that I can be inspired by you. Because what keeps us from truly connecting with each other is our need to cover up and mask the common denominator that truly unites us. We are human. We feel. We cry. We love. We yearn. We try. We leap. We fall. We get back up again.
When I dare to forget about my mask, my facade, my persona — and just say what’s in my heart, I am liberated. I am connected. I am transformed. That’s what I want to bring to the stage in every area of my life. I’m beginning to realize that the powerful part of writing, speaking, creating a video, engaging in conversation — anything we do to exchange information — is not so much about finding the perfect combination of words, but rather about tapping into an energy — live, vibrant, pulsing, bright, beautiful.
Our greatest opportunity is to create a bridge through which this energy can somehow travel from one to another in such a way that it will liberate, soothe, uplift, energize, inspire, and fill us all up with boundless passion and light until we burst out in a great joyous explosion of blissful exhilaration, and light up everything and everyone around us.
What can you do today to forget about polished and just let it rip? Move into your fear. There is energy and electricity there. For you. For me. For all of us.
I dare you.
Diane Bolden is passionate about helping people actualize their brilliance in a way that inspires others to do the same. In addition to being the author of The Pinocchio Principle ~ Becoming the Leader You Were Born to Be, Diane is an executive coach, speaker, and organization development professional.