A couple weeks ago, I asked you about fear. The wife and I had volunteered to give a talk to college students about financial independence. Like most, I don’t enjoy public speaking. (side-note: Mrs. 1500 fears nothing and was completely unfazed.) The big day was last week. Here we are:
My mind was calm up until the night before the presentation. I had a little anxiety that evening, so I slept like crap. The next day, I had a hard time focusing as I let fear creep in.
The time came to leave for the talk and I was on edge. We arrived at Colorado State University and there was a group of about 25 students waiting for us. I chatted up a couple of them and that made me feel better. They were warm, gracious and generous in their usage of colorful metaphors. And then it was time to begin,
I started talking and the fear melted away. Just like that. A couple sentences in, I was having a good time. To lighten the mood, I goofed around. Early in the talk, I opened my wallet to give one of the students $10 (he had the most loan debt). The crowd laughed. We talked for 45 minutes. While I certainly have room to improve, it went better than any of our rehearsals.
I was incredibly relieved and felt stupid that I had any fear at all.
Did we get through?
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
I have no clue how if we made any difference. We chatted with some of the students after the talk and they were enthusiastic, but I could tell that at least a couple of them were already in the right mindset. A real win would be pulling someone over from the Dark Side (the shopping mall).
My favorite tips
Alan Donegan: There are some speakers who can make an interesting topic boring. Others can talk about toothpaste and have you on the edge of your seat. Alan Donegan is one of the latter. I observed him in action in Ecuador and he was incredible. He was the first person I sought out to help me with the presentation. Here is what I learned from him:
- Delivery is everything: Alan’s stage presence is incredible. He prowls the stage like he owns it. I hung on every word.
- It’s just a chat: Alan encouraged me to act like I was having a chat with the crowd. Ask questions to get folks engaged and pause to let them think and absorb.
- Be confident: If you’re scared and timid, this will be reflected in the crowd. If you’re fun and confident, you’ll be received much better.
The main thing that I learned from Alan is that I had been giving speeches wrong my whole life. In high school and at university, I’d stand behind a lectern and ramble off a bunch of stuff in a monotone. BORING! It’s much more effective to let your personality and passion shine through. It’s so much more fun to give a speech this way too.
If you’d like to see a master perform, here is Alan in action:
And here are my favorite tips from you, the readers:
Divnomics reinforced something that I’ve thought about often. That is, fear itself is an impediment to success. It’s not easy to not allow fear in, but it’s important to try:
I believe fear has some real damaging power here. And found out that the biggest fear, is the fear to fail. Fear is something that can hold you back, and it makes you say: see, it didn’t work out. And sometimes you don’t even know it when it happens…
Gentleman of Leisure mentioned that I should consider the worst case scenario. I like this a lot:
Usually the worst possible scenario isn’t that terrible, but if it is, then maybe its not a chance that I’m ready for yet.
1 – By and large your audience is rooting for your success. As I’m sure you’ve seen from your own experience it’s far more enjoyable to be an audience member when the speaker is at ease. Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of people you’re speaking to – everyone in the group is an individual just like you.
2 – You’ve been asked to speak about an aspect of your own experience. You are the world’s foremost expert on your own experience. It is simply impossible for anyone to know the material better than you. Be honest about your own experience and you can not fail.
Dividend Growth Investor was the first to mention how important preparation is. I couldn’t agree more. We practiced at least 10 times and after each round, I felt a little better. We even subjected some local friends to the presentation (Thanks B and L!). We still used notes, but the talk would have gone off 98% as well if we had left them at home:
I can do fine with public speaking if I prepare well (or convince myself I have prepared well). So if you prepare well in advance, and rehearse your speech in front of the mirror, you should do fine.
Mingle with the guests beforehand. Someone on Twitter mentioned this to me and it’s wonderful advice. I felt much better after I made a connection with a couple of the students. I could tell they were enthusiastic and that put my mind at ease,
Finally, Mrs. Montana was super awesome because she took the time to review a very rough draft of my slides. She gave me great feedback which I immediately implemented. Thanks so much for that Mrs. Montana!!
Since the evening of the presentation, I’ve been thinking more about fear. Coincidentally, I listened to a podcast with the Happy Philosopher and the discussion turned to fear. The host mentioned this quote by Jim Carrey:
So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.
And then there was this one:
What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?
I started reflecting on my own life. I’ve taken some big chances that many would not:
- Freelancing: I left my cushy corporate job to become an hourly contractor. These jobs tend to be temporary and lack good benefits, but I received a fat pay increase. This has worked out incredibly well.
- Flipping houses: I knew little about real estate or home improvement, but dived into the home flipping world with great success.
But I’ve made plenty of poor decisions out of fear too including staying in a relationship far too long and passing on opportunities that would have been profitable.
Safe and secure is OK, but the great ones don’t follow the road commonly traveled. It takes a special person to be a leader and forge new ground.
How about you Readers?
- Do you regret that some of your decisions were made out of fear?
- What would you do right now if you weren’t afraid?
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