If you’ve ever given thought to delivering a big speech – like a TEDx, Ignite, a personal testimony or even a presentation for work – have you ever wondered if you’re truly qualified to do it? Maybe these questions sound familiar:
- Who am I to talk about this topic?
- Who am I to think I can do it better than _________?? (insert someone’s name here)
- Do I have the proper degree or certification to be talking about this?
- What can I possibly bring to this topic that hasn’t been done before?
This can be paralyzing. I have so much compassion for you, if you’ve been here before.
Most speaker coaches will assure you you’re amazing, and just help you get on with the development of the speech. But at evoso, we don’t do that. We celebrate your self-doubt as part of your process.
Why? Because these are good, real questions. And they have good, real answers.
The reality is, when it comes to speaking your truth, most people (even those who are naturally self-confident or wildly successful) have pangs of self-doubt when an opportunity to take the mic comes around.
This is an important part of the creative process one should do before going public with big ideas, that is often skipped over. Perhaps it feels too painful to explore, or seems interpreted as silly or unnecessary.
But what if we honor the fact those thoughts and feelings are coming up? What if they are providing us some incredible information? What if we get curious about what that other person or success has, that we feel we do not?
There is something tremendously powerful, healing and transformational about giving our doubts a voice. Often times, our doubts materialize through other people’s successes. It’s easy to feel small standing next to someone so big.
I will model this for you now. Allow me to share with you all the reasons I am absolutely, utterly and completely not qualified to be a Speech Midwife, and have no right to share with you this post about how to know if you’re qualified…
So here’s why I’m NOT the best person to teaching you about public speaking:
Despite the fact I’m known for helping people develop speeches that get millions of views on YouTube (my client Ash Beckham is one of the Top 10 Most Viewed TEDx talks of all time), I could really give a rat’s ass about view clicks.
Really, this post should be written by someone who’s obsessed with numbers, metrics and reach and tangible outcomes of speeches. I mean, millions of views are great. But guess what? I don’t care.
I care about you being a channel for an authentic truth that needs to pass through you.
And if people get that on a mass level, then awesome. If they don’t – I have trust that even the 100 people you reached were changed in some small way for you having showed up.
To me, that feels like success. And to you, someone who probably wants results, perhaps that feels maddening…
Also, I don’t have an advanced degree in performance, audience psychology or have an MBA. I don’t have much formal training beyond my Speech Communication degree that I only pursued because the football players told me it was easy. (I actually don’t agree – I found it challenging, as my 2.79 GPA would back up. You might want to further doubt my intellectual capacity about communications at this point if you weren’t already.)
You can’t trust me, because I don’t have an advanced degree saying you should. There are other experts out there who have every certification that may impress you, AND they went to Harvard and graduated Sigma Cum Laude or whatever the hell that means. (I didn’t learn Latin while struggling to get my 2.79 GPA from the football player program.) Consider this is your invitation to seek them out instead of me.
I don’t have much time to write. Listen, my life is insane. I’m a single mom raising two amazing kids. But they are little – ages 5 and 2.
Do you know what it’s like to spend your morning arguing over oatmeal flavor, the societal expectation to wear pants and an an epic meltdown because it’s not raining today, and the kid was hoping it would?
If you are a parent, you know what I’m talking about here. No one should have no faith in the mental capacity of what I’m writing right now.
I’m sure I could go on, but you get the idea.
Sometimes we need to address why we’re not qualified, to see if we are qualified.
And if your introspection turns up the fact that you’re authentically dedicated to leaving an audience better than you found them, and that you are also dedicated to bringing the epic value necessary to accomplish that.
If you’d like to try this technique I’m explaining here, then pick up a pen and paper…or open a new document on your laptop, and start writing about why you are NOT qualified to give that talk. I mean, really go for it. Get dramatic, be critical, get ridiculous. Maybe visualize yourself as a critical teenager while you do it.
Then let it sit. You’ll come back to this later.
Next, take a deep breath. If you meditate, take a few minutes to get grounded and clear your mental space. (This is something I do a lot, and we teach at evoso. It really helps when getting to one’s truth.)
When you feel ready, list all the reasons you ARE qualified. Jot down what makes you awesome, and bring your most obnoxiously positive spin to it. Again, I will model it here…
I know my shit because I have DONE It. I was a professional speaker for 13 years, and talked about a very unpopular, complicated topic (violence prevention and self-defense for teen/college girls) to people who really didn’t want to hear it. Before most speaking gigs, I’d be in the bathroom and hear all the seminar attendees bitching about having to go to my “dumb safety lecture”.
And I’d get on stage and make a joke out of it, and promise the crowd I wouldn’t waste their time – and by the end they would totally love me. Why? Because I loved them first, and I loved them big.
I started my speaking business when I was 22, and had zero credentials or life experience. So I trained my ass off, and learned everything I could. Then I tried to figure out how to start a business that was a platform for change.
It was the year 2001, and the internet was still kinda new. So was email. Facebook didn’t exist. Starting any business or platform at that time was challenging, but my clarity, focus and dedication to educating these women about my topic drove me to figure out a way to find them. I started by giving speeches at senior citizen’s homes, girl scout troops and local pubs around Hoboken, NJ.
There is nothing I haven’t been through on stage, or as a public figure, that I can’t advise my clients on. I’ve been heckled, yelled at, picketed, protested. I’ve forgotten every word of what I was going to say, and rebounded victoriously, even after a minute of total mental darkness/awkwardness. Conversely, I’ve also received standing ovations that made me cry with happiness and disbelief that connection in this format, one-to-many, is even possible.
I have been on live TV where they totally changed the game on me at the last minute, and rocked it purely by loving my topic and audience so much that failure simply wasn’t an option.
I’ve gotten a big-time book deal, only to be sued by my agent…and later to self-publish that book. (now going into its 3rd edition)
I have received death threats for speaking my truth many times. For this, I have actually needed professional security at times. I have spoken out anyway, with an even more ferocious vigor than before, despite the risks.
From the speeches I gave to over ONE MILLION people around the world, we have received countless success stories of young women who prevented bad situations from transpiring or defended themselves in life and death confrontations.
It was a regular occurrence to get emails telling me of someone’s harrowing experience and end with “You saved my life.” And while that’s not true (she saved her own life), I have gained a new respect for the power of words cobbled together over the years.
Later I started evoso, and have worked with 100 people in the past two years to discover their authentic message and get it heard in the world. Some of my clients have gone on to give incredible speeches that went crazy viral, and effected the lives of MILLIONS of people.
They are solely responsible for giving those talks, but I own the fact I brought many years experience to helping them choose the right stories, words, visuals and messages to bring to the masses.
So there you go. I’m not typical when it comes to my profession, and probably neither are you. We all have a unique path and bring a unique genius to whatever we want to share with the world.
Read over both things you wrote about your disqualifications and qualifications. Sit with it. See which one is more true. Decide if you are qualified, because no one else can do that but you.
But here are some questions …
Have you been through real life experiences that make you a person with good authority to be on stage? Do you care about your topic or audience more than anyone else you know? Do you get butterflies in the stomach (a mix of anxious and excited) when even thinking about getting on that stage? Do you have something to offer, and are you ready to do that vulnerably and powerfully? Can you leave your audience better than you found them?
If so…then YES. You are qualified. Do it. Rock it.