Speaking at conferences or events provides you with an opportunity to establish your status as an expert in your field. It generates PR for your business, book or consultancy. Public speaking however causes much anxiety to many. We interviewed public speakers, and asked what challenges they face as a speaker, and how they overcome these challenges. For some it's stage fright, for others it's being booked as a speaker, and everything in between.
Truthfully, prejudice. I'm younger and browner than most life coaches in the industry, and despite my accolades, this challenge is a constant battle I have to face. Luckily, my parents prepared me well for the illnesses of the modern world, so I own it. I talk about it, I encourage the conversation whenever and wherever I can, and channel all the negative emotion into a positive solution. I keep pictures of my nieces and nephews in my office, I allow the energy of those who look up to me to hold me up.
Like most people, I experience the butterflies of stage fright. The only way to overcome that fight-flight-or-freeze response is to practice. Rehearsal matters!
The biggest challenge for a speaker is to accept that some people are simply NOT going to like you or your material. The saying "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear" holds true, and some are ready and some are not. Overcome? Just put on your best presentation with the most energy you can muster and let the chips fall where they may.
Early on. I had a few people question my focusing on happiness (my mantra is "living happy - inside out"), considering it too nebulous and impractical a topic. I overcame the nay-sayers over time, demonstrating that when people feel happier, they are more energized, creative and successful.
Another challenge has been differentiating myself from other speakers and experts in a veritable sea of similitude. I was never a competitor and couldn't drift away from my authentic nature, but I am also a highly purposed and consistent worker who followed after interests, connections and opportunities that felt meaningful to me. Ultimately, I found that my personal happiness messages translated and extended into many facets of life. Knowing how to take my background experience and connect it to happiness and authenticity has landed me on over 300 media outlets both in the U.S. and abroad. I've become a well-received guest on radio and podcast interviews, providing relatable stories and helpful suggestions to more segmented audiences. Further, I've always had an interest in travel and different cultures and focused my efforts on speaking overseas. Over time, I developed expanding relationships and have since keynoted dozens of times at universities and leadership conferences in eight or nine foreign countries. These venues appreciate hearing from an American voice with a different perspective and have often invited their national TV and press to interview the visiting Ambassador of Happiness(R). It's uplifting and fun for all involved - especially me who grew up with a global goodwill mentality.
A final challenge is my lack of administrative expertise. I might be a diligent worker, but I am often challenged by record keeping, logistics and a lot more. I can say I've overcome my challenge by having a husband who does a great job of keeping me organized and inside the rails - as well as expertly planning the overseas trips. I like to joke that I'd have difficulty getting out of the garage, but my husband can successfully and expertly navigate himself around any country in the world, even if he's never been there before. I guess the "take-away" of this last challenge has been, do what you do best and then find or hire someone to help you do the rest!
My biggest challenge as a speaker is making sure that the talk that I give that day or evening is relevant to that audience. I never want to be cookie cutter and I always want to teach something significant. How do I overcome that? Research and asking the right questions to the right people.
Challenges: So much to share, so little time ... AND, keeping people's attention in light of constant distractions and competing priorities.
Strategies to overcome: I bring loads of energy to my delivery and style, plus I keep it simple. I deliver content in bite-sized pieces to make it easier to digest. I keep my content and delivery light and fun by incorporating jokes, and infuse loads of engagement - hands on, calling on volunteers, Q&A.
One challenge is to distill abstract, far-reaching ideas into interesting "chunks" that audience members can grasp and understand how they apply to their situations. My experience as a textbook author has helped me to figure out the best ways to condense a lot of information into relatively few words -- often with the aid of visuals (like advertising examples) that drive home the points for me.
One of the challenges I find as a speaker is penetrating into new arenas. My message and teaching are incredibly universal and there isn't a venue or audience that hasn't found value in what I present. With the ever-growing options we speakers have for branding, packaging and marketing I still work with how to move into the new arena, and how best to have my marketing represent the consistency of my message in diverse ways.
As a keynote speaker, one big challenge is feeling like I have to perform, rather than just connect in a more authentic way. I overcome that by throwing away my speech and being honest with my ideas.