How to Become a Great Public Speaker
Do you want to become a good public speaker? Do you want to be confident on the stage and speak flawlessly to 100s of people?
If you are not a public speaker yet, I am sure that you either want to become good at public speaking, or you have convinced yourself that speaking on stage is not something that will work for you… and you’ve given up on public speaking as a skill.
In this post, I am going to tell you why public speaking is one of the most important life skills that you should get – and how it can improve all the areas of your life – including your social, business and personal life.
Let me start with sharing a personal story.
I did my first public talk in 2004.
I had just joined college, and my English professor wanted all of us to go on stage and speak. We had to write something for 300 words and speak for 5 minutes in front of the class room. There were many people who spoke well. Good looking girls especially spoke very well, and that crashed my confidence even before I gave my talk.
At a young age of 18 years, there is a not a lot that one can achieve in life. And confidence levels can be pretty low. I went on the stage and stammered. I spoke like a robot with no emotions. There was no change in tone, and people just waited for me to finish talking. It was a very painful experience.
I had two options that day. Either decide to stop speaking on stage, and convince myself I can do other things in life and excel at it. Or, make a commitment to myself to become good at public speaking. The first option was easy. The second option is going to be insanely difficult. I chose the second option.
15 years later, I am sitting at the restaurant at Trident Hyderabad as I am writing this post… and I just delivered a talk to an audience of 600+ people a few hours back at the Digital Masters Conference.
I had no nervousness and the talk went extremely well. People laughed at my lines and absorbed the information in my mind into theirs with enthusiasm. (Check out the pics on my Instagram).
I have come a long way, and in this blog post I am going to share my thoughts about how to become better at public speaking and why public speaking is a skill that you cannot ignore. Public speaking is important because that’s the pinnacle of human communication. To be able to communicate what you think, feel and believe, to 100s or 1000s of people at the same time. That’s some insane power.
The power and ability to communicate is what differentiates us from other species. With the power of communication, we have been able to build mega cities, and live in harmony with millions of strangers. With the power of communication, we act in unity. We can align individuals into focus. For a single cause, that all of us believe in.
Mahathma Gandhi was able to bring together millions of people with a simple belief: non-violence. Martin Luther King, Nelson Madela and so many other leaders from history became leaders because they had the power to communicate in a simple but powerful way.
If you think about it for a moment, we have the power to communicate effortlessly with our parents, our siblings, girl friends, children, grandparents, co-workers and friends. We do it all the time. However, when it comes to speaking on stage with 100s of people at the same time, we struggle. Why?
Is it difficult for you to pick up your phone right now, and talk to your closest friend? You know the language and you can communicate your thoughts, feelings and emotions to your close friends effortlessly. However, if I ask you to speak on stage in front of 100+ people, you wouldn’t be comfortable. You would feel a sense of discomfort.
If you want to remove the discomfort of speaking on stage, you first have to find out where the discomfort originates from. If you can identify the source of the problem, we can solve the problem.
Many people think that just like learning any other skill through books, blogs, online videos and workshops, public speaking is something they can learn on demand. Unfortunately it is not as simple as that. From what I’ve seen, not all the people who go through training, books and learning actually do well on stage. And I have seen people who come from schools where the first language was not English, and yet they are amazing speakers on stage.
Certain speakers show confidence, are humorous and make people laugh and deliver talks that changes the lives of the audience. As they speak, 100s of eyes look at them, and ears hear what the speaker has to say, absorb information from the speakers mind, into their own minds. That’s simply magical.
How is it possible that some people can be amazing on stage without any formal training or learning, and some people can suck at stage and shiver with fear in spite of having a formal training on public speaking? My search for an answer led me to become a better public speaker. Not just a better public speaker, but a better person overall. And that’s what I’m gonna share in this blog post.
Becoming a great public speaker that the audience loves has nothing to do with your command over the English language, your physical fitness, your looks, your humour punch lines, or your body language.
To speak to 100s or 1000s of people in a comfortable way, we first have to look at the places where we are comfortable and understand where that comfort originates from. We communicate comfortably with our closest friends.
We talk, we tell jokes, we laugh at their jokes and we are totally into the moment. We lose track of time and sometimes hours pass by in the conversation. Why?
That’s because your closest friend…
Truly knows who you are.
You are comfortable with him, and are able to enjoy the conversation because you have nothing to hide.
Nothing. To. Hide.
If you are not yet a great public speaker, that’s because you have something to hide. You are not letting your core personality shine through. You are being someone else to your friend, and someone else to the audience that is hearing you speak.
When you are not being yourself, and when 100s of eyes are looking at you, you are afraid if they will see through you – into who you truly are, and that’s very scary. That’s the source of the fear. That’s where stage fear comes from.
We hide our true character to the outside world all the time. And we cannot be blamed.
I used to hide a lot. And I still hide a few things. I am still not perfect.
You see, this is a harsh world. Right from our childhood, we are judged, ranked, stared at, and sometimes shouted at. The world is a scary place for most of us. And all of us, as we grew up, ended up having two personalities.
One personality is our true character. Who we are inside, what we believe, what we like, our preferences and so on. And most of the times, this true self is in conflict with what the society and the world wants out of us.
So we developed another personality which was something that satisfied the society. No one can become 100% what the society wants us to be. We can only pretend. And we ended up doing a pretending game. We all put up a double face. It is a natural part of growing up and adjusting to the world around us.
Why do we do this? Not because we are dishonest. It’s just convenient. It’s convenient to have a persona for the needs of the society and a persona of who you truly are. It’s easy to put up a show. Being a rebel is inconvenient.
The world doesn’t want you to take the road less travelled. It comes back at you with knives of criticism. Non-conformity is not appreciated (at least to start with). That’s the sad truth of the world today. Uniqueness is not appreciated in the beginning.
Look around you. If you are in a public place, look at all the people’s faces. They are the social faces. Who they are inside their home, with their closest friends is different. Who they are in their office is different. Who they are with their parents is different. Who they are with their wife is different. Who they are to their kids is different.
Look at yourself in the mirror. Who you are to yourself is different. And who you are to all these people who you see around you is different. It’s a hard pill to swallow but we know that’s the truth.
Now the secret to becoming not just a great public speaker, but a better business man, a better citizen, a better writer, a better friend, a better father, a better spouse, a better son is… To bring all these personalities together. And be one version of yourself – all the places you go.
To put it simply…
Just be yourself.
That’s the secret to success in all the areas of your life.
Becoming authentic is painful – because when you expose yourself to the world, the world is going to get uncomfortable. Because you are unique & different.
When the world got so used to your social persona through years of double face, the world will not take it easy when you start being yourself. The world will try to threaten you to conform into who you are supposed to be – not who you truly are. Because if you do not conform to the world around you, the world loses its power to control you.
Everyone wants to predict your moves because that gives them the sense of power – and takes away the power from you.
By nature, by birth you are unique, but the world doesn’t want you to be unique.
Being authentic takes a lot of courage. A lot of depth in character. A lot of resolve.
This is not something that you can do overnight. This is a process that takes years. No one is 100% authentic. Not even me. But the greatest people in history are.
You have to start changing. You have to become yourself. It’s a great place to be. And it will take some time. But from today, you can start with small things. Be honest with little things.
Express what you feel without the fear of consequences. If you hate your job, tell it honestly to your boss. If you dislike the behaviour of your friends, parents or family – tell it to them – straight on their face – boldly – without fear of consequences. If you like a girl (or boy), tell her (or him).
You want to believe in something. Believe. You want to dress a particular way? Do it. You want to learn something? Learn it.
As you slowly start living for yourself, you will become more authentic. You will become more of yourself, and less of the personality that society wants you to be.
Your life will become simpler. Purer.
Kill all the fake personalities you have. Do it one by one, and slowly you will start seeing your life turn around for the better. A weight will be shifted off your shoulder. You will stop caring what other people think of you. Isn’t that a great feeling?
Imagine how amazing it would be if the whole world accepted you as you truly are? It will happen, but not immediately. Initially, there will be some friction. People will get shocked to see you change. For so many years you put up a mask. Now people will freak out when you remove the mask. But slowly the world will start getting used to your authenticity.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Once you start killing all your fake social personalities, you no longer need to be someone for yourself, and someone else for others. You just need to be yourself, inside your home. Outside. Everywhere. And that’s gives you a lot of time, space and energy to grow your own career, relationships, health and also start contributing back to the world.
And when you are just yourself on stage, when you have nothing to hide, you will be able to communicate better. Without fear. Without nervousness. Just like you would talk to your close friend.
Being authentic is the best way to live the one life we have. Your true character will shine through wherever you go. The very same people who ignored you, laughed at you, fought you, will now celebrate you as a guide and an inspiration.
All because – you have started a journey to becoming yourself – and being bold enough to show the whole world who you truly are – not what they want you to be. When you talk to a 1000 people like you would talk to your friend, without having anything to hide, magic happens.
People will laugh at your jokes. They will listen to what you have to say. They will be in the moment, with you, all 1000 of them, and the energy in the room would be something that you’ve never experienced before.
Authentic public speakers know this… and they are addicted to it. It’s like enjoying your time with a close friend, but a 1000 of them.
When you are an authentic public speaker, your audience will fall in love with you because all of us are tired of fake people. We don’t see authentic people in positions of power often.
When you get to the stage, the audience will absorb positive energy from you. They will connect with the true you and rejoice. It’s a magical, spiritual moment because your heart, your true character and your true inner self is connecting with the core self of the audience – 100s of them.
That’s when the most simplest things you say, will have deep meaning. And the auditorium will resound will the sound of claps. That’s when the most boring lines, become funny that the audience bursts with laughter. That’s when you get a standing ovation when you end your speech. It’s not just the content that gets appreciated. It’s you that gets appreciated.
Nothing. To. Hide.
Think about it for a few minutes. Reflect on it. And think about how authentic you are to this world as of now.
Don’t try to act in a way that people will like you. You will fail.
It is so easy to see when people are fake – especially on stage.
You see people speak in public all the time. You can make out who is genuine and who is not, right? If you can make it out… then everyone can. We all have special powers through which we can measure the authenticity of words.
People are attracted to authenticity. But authenticity takes courage. You have to cross a dangerous river of criticism and fear of people leaving you before you get to the other side of acceptance.
Once you start your journey towards authenticity, there is no turning back. It is pretty stressful to be fake all the time and put up a persona that pleases people. It will tire you out. In the long run, you cannot keep up with the demands and expectations of the world. It will weigh you down. Once you start becoming authentic, you will not only become a great public speaker, but also a great human being.
You will be a better boss, a better husband, a better parent, a better son, a better daughter, a better citizen and a better everything. And the best part about being authentic is that fake people around you will start moving away from you. Don’t be afraid of that. No matter how close they are to you, it’s best they move away. Don’t change yourself for them.
If they cannot accept as you truly are, they don’t belong in your life anyway. They get turned off by authenticity because they are fake themselves to begin with. They get attracted only to other fake people.
When you become authentic, and start showing off your true self – you will start attracting other authentic people in your life. Because authentic people only have relationships with other authentic people.
You will attract a life partner who will love you for who you are – not what they want you to be. You will attract business partners who are authentic – and who can do business with you just with a handshake, and without legal contracts. You will get a job at a workplace where you have authentic bosses. Who will focus on your career growth, rather than what they can take from you.
You will attract fake people if you are fake. You will attract authentic people if you are authentic. As simple as that.
There is a world of deceit, who doesn’t know much about the authentic world and the people in it. And then there is a world of authenticity – where people trust each other, are happier, more successful and everything looks hopeful for the future.
You choose the world that you want to live in.
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by business partners, friends, employees, mentors and family that values me for who I really am, and they are also authentic people who don’t put up a double face. Sometimes I feel lucky, and sometimes I also feel that I’ve earned it because I took the courage to become authentic myself – and I’ve attracted them into my life.
Let’s make that change, starting with the man in the mirror. Let’s become authentic, not for anyone, but for ourselves. We owe it to us. We deserve it. Life is too short for putting up a double face.
Whatever you want, is on the other side of fear.
Cross that horizon.
There is a wonderful world of authentic people waiting for you on the other side.
Have a great day!