There’s a famous post-game interview with former NBA star Allen Iverson, who when asked about whether missed practices affected his shooting went on a cringeworthy & condescending tirade repeating the phrase, “Practice? We’re talkin’ bout practice. We're not talkin' bout the game. We talkin' about practice.”
Allen Iverson (AI) was a veteran All-Star NBA point guard!!! He didn’t need PRACTICE!
...or, did he?
When it comes to conquering your fear of public speaking, practice is EVERYTHING.
And, I’m not talking about practicing at home in front of your mirror (which can be valuable).
We’re talkin’ about practice - in front of a LIVE audience.
Years ago, I realized I needed to brush up on public speaking and my first thought was "I should read some books about it." (cop out) I read a bunch. One of my favorites was and still is: The Exceptional Presenter, by Tim Koegel.
But, reading about techniques and practicing techniques are two very different things.
Sooner or later, you’re going to have to get up in front of people.
Things change when you're in front of a live audience. All eyes are on you. You may feel your heart rate increase, have trouble breathing or feel shaky. People often describe public speaking as an out of body experience! “It was all a blur!”
The reality is that the audience doesn't notice these symptoms. They’re not inside your head and they can’t feel your heartbeat. It is very common to have a physical and emotional reaction to speaking in front of a group. This is why we’re talkin’ bout practice!
The more times you get up in front of a group, the easier it gets. It’s like strength training. The more reps you do, the stronger you get.
My mentor, the late Peter Bunce, used to say:
“Never turn down a speaking opportunity.”
Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes. The more you practice, the better prepared you will be when you really want to impress your audience!
But, how do you get practice reps? You can find opportunities and make opportunities for yourself in everyday life. Here are some ideas:
1) Volunteer to speak in staff meetings. Don’t just wing it and fumble through your weekly update at the company staff meeting. Spend some time carefully constructing your update. Edit your words and aim to impress!
2) Prepare a story for your next dinner party. Maybe something funny happened to you during the week? Remember that every good story has a beginning, middle and an end. Great stories include dialogue. And, the suspense in your story should build to climax. Practice telling your story to your best friend, your mom, your spouse, etc. Tell it in group formats and pay attention to how the story is received.
3) Join a new group on Meetup.com. Meetup is a fantastic resource for tons of different affinity groups. Public speaking clubs, foreign language clubs, networking clubs, etc. Maybe join a book club where you are discussing the books in a group setting? There are tons of different groups to join and guarantee you'll be forced to be social and speak in a group setting.
4) Volunteer to read at church, temple, etc. If you’re a religious person, ask your leadership if you could read a passage during the next session. Or, volunteer to say Grace at your next family dinner? Or, maybe you’re involved in 12 step meetings? Ask the organizers if you can lead a meeting. Religious and spiritual groups are great places to speak at.
5) Share your knowledge. Most companies foster peer-to-peer teaching. They often feature “Lunch n Learn” series where anyone can present their work, process or vision in an informal setting. Or, if you don’t have a typical 9 to 5 job, you can bring your series to a local library, coffee shop, etc. You are an expert in something and you can provide value!
6) Join a local Toastmasters Club. There are ~130,000 clubs worldwide. Membership is cheap, and can be written off on your taxes. Toastmasters is a supportive, learn-by-doing workshop. Totally self paced and self-guided.
7) Opportunities are all around you! Open your eyes and you'll find ways to practice. Don't shy away from being a leader. If you want to improve, never turn down a speaking opportunity. And, figure out ways to make opportunities.
Practice, practice, practice!
Yeah, we're talkin' about practice.
Allen Iverson was one of the greatest point guards of all time in the NBA. And, despite his hilarious rant about practice, you can bet your butt he achieved all of this through good ole fashioned:
If you are serious about improvement, don't hesitate to contact me. I provide one-on-one coaching and can help you take your game to the next level!
Email me at: itsMattSherwood@gmail.com