I’ve been really fortunate to get a couple of public speaking opportunities lately. In June I spoke at Indie London about the journey of growing Ticket Tailor, and last night I was on an expert panel hosted by FEInternational on the topic of growing a tech business.
Like everyone, I get anxious about the idea of public speaking and am my own worst critic. I particularly struggle with thinking on the spot. In fact in the Q&A at Indie London I was asked “What was the biggest mistakes you made along the way?”. I couldn’t think of any mistakes in the first second and so I answered “I haven’t made any”.
HAHA, what an unhelpful answer. Of course I have made mistakes I just couldn’t think of them at that moment.
On the panel yesterday I was particularly nervous about the thinking-on-the-spot thing as who knows where a panel can go. Fortunately I was sat next to David Henzel, a founder of multiple successful companies, and he gave me some great advice just before we kicked off that really helped. I’ll do my best to share that here:
Fear VS Love
David explained to me that with public speaking I can either act out of fear or out of love.
When acting out of fear, the goal is to not look stupid, and so it becomes all about me. I may refrain from sharing something because I’m scared I might come across in a bad way, or I may articulate something in a way that protects me but is less helpful to the audience.
When acting out of love, the goal is to help the the other person, and so it becomes all about them. With this attitude, there’s no fear about what they think of me, and therefore it can be articulated in a way that is most helpful for them.
Clearly the point of public speaking is to share stories in the interest that it might help other people, and clearly that requires to share out of love and make it all about the audience.
After the panel, I felt I could have done better in articulating what I wanted to say, but having had the advice from David beforehand I was more confident in sharing what I thought was helpful. I find it tempting to feel uncomfortable about how I may have come across but knowing that it was coming from a place of love makes me take any negative emotions on the chin and put it down to experience at articulation, which will only get better with practise.
Going back to the “I haven’t made any mistakes” response at Indie London, I was clearly acting out of fear. My weakness was not being able to think quick enough and rather than admit that, I created a lie that misleads the audience. In hindsight, if I was acting out of love, the best thing I could have said is something like “I’ve made loads, but it’s hard to think of what the biggest ones are right now, speak to me afterwards and I’ll let you know once I’ve had a chance to think about it”. Obviously more prep for Q&As would have been ideal but again, this will only get better with practise.