Fun fact: I did not give my first public speech until 2006, when I was 31 years old. It was at an Internet conference, and I really didn’t know what to expect. But the second I took that stage, my world was never the same.
Sometimes I wonder if my real talent is public speaking, not building businesses. I enjoy it almost as much. There may be no greater high for me than that second right before I walk out onstage; it feels like home. It’s no secret that I like to hear myself talk, and this gives me the perfect excuse, but I really do tremendously enjoy connecting with my audience. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to speak to so many people on a regular basis.
If you’ve done a good job of building your brand, there is a good chance someone will ask you for an interview or to sit on a panel, and eventually, if you’re really good, to host a conference or deliver a keynote address. When this starts happening to you, you’ll know you’re on your way. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your moment in the spotlight.
Some people are absolutely terrified by the idea of speaking in public. If that’s you, and you’re growing a business, I hope you’ll get some help from a counselor or coach. Some people even attend acting, improv, or comedy classes. Finding a way to free yourself from your fear of public speaking is an extremely worthwhile investment, because if you succeed, it sets the potential for an enormous boon to your brand and business.
The benefit of doing keynotes or talks is tremendous. You can reach new audiences you might not have encountered. Build your credibility. Take time to articulate your ideas in a longer format.
And public speaking opportunities often give you the chance to meet other influencers and cool people, as well as learn a bit more about yourself by seeing how you communicate differently in various settings. Take the first opportunity you can get. It’s a great experience.
Some people have to write out a script and memorize it word for word before they’ll feel comfortable up on the stage or at the podium. Some people practice with their friends. Others prefer to improvise. Me? Well, my preparation is a little unconventional. It works for me, but I’m not sure it would work for everyone. Whatever. You asked.
Eight minutes before I take the stage, I’m doing my everyday stuff. I’m checking email. I’m joking with a friend. You’d never know I’m about to give a talk. I find that continuing my routine activities helps keep me calm.
Six minutes before showtime, I get into a weird place. I become extremely focused, like a boxer about to hit the ring. But I don’t review any notes. I don’t frantically start rattling through the speech to make sure I know it by heart.
Those last-minute tendencies people have to want to fix something or change something can be really destructive. The day you find yourself in this moment, have confidence in yourself and go with your plan. You’ve worked hard for this. You’re ready
Then, right before I go out onstage, I think about punching every audience member directly in the mouth.
Though not literally, of course. I don’t want to inflict harm on anyone. But when I’m onstage, I’m hyper-focused on bringing my audience value, and so I’m in a sort of aggressive attack mode. I know it sounds strange, but I feel a weird mix of love and aggression for the people in the seats, because on one hand I’m so grateful for their presence and their support and interest, yet I’m also determined to send them away with a powerful message ringing in their ears. I’m like a boxer in a crazy zone before the fight.
Except unlike a boxer, I can’t physically grab people’s attention. I have to demand their attention with my voice, and convey my story in a way that keeps them rapt. Here is where showing your emotion is a good thing. Go ahead and get excited, or pissed, or frustrated. Show the audience how you feel about your topic. People respond to honesty and emotion. You’ll look strong and convincing. Most important, you’ll be almost impossible to forget.
So that’s how to prepare for an important talk. Trust me, the first one is the easiest one you’ll ever do. Know why? Because you’re only as good as your last talk. You’ve got nowhere to go but up.
The second you take that stage, you’re wiping the slate clean and reaffixing your brand in people’s hearts and minds. Treat each event as your last at bat, and make it an amazing one.
This article is adapted from #ASKGARYVEE: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness. Copyright © 2016 by Gary Vaynerchuk, cofounder and CEO of the digital agency VaynerMedia. It is reprinted with permission from Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Correction: a previous version of this article misspelled Gary Vaynerchuk's name.