get spotlight ready

December 20, 2011

in Getting Started, Presentation Skills

WOW. I am still coming down from speaking at the incredible TEDxWomenOjai conference, hosted by Jodi Womack . Since then, I’ve received a new wave of questions and interview requests from folks who are interested in stepping on stage. Here are a few ideas to get you warmed up for your spotlight:

Just start speaking. Okay, that may sound totally obnoxious, but literally show up somewhere and volunteer to speak at a local meet up. Create a Meetup, or find an existing one that suits you, so you can speak in front of at least 5 or 6 people.

Make videos. I sometimes feel like I was sort of cheating by making videos as blog posts (because it was more fun and easier than writing for me), but the videos were the thing that actually let people know that I had something to say and had some on camera talent. It was also great practice for the stage. It’s important to look at speaking as a craft, not just a business-building vehicle. Get your feet wet. Watch yourself. Find and hone your own style before you hit the stage.

You’re going to feel sick. Know that. Before my first big gig, I was comfortable speaking in small groups and facilitating meetings or small events. To be totally honest and without exaggeration, I was still sick to my stomach for six months before my first big speaking gig (in another city, 300+ folks, paid). I was beside myself. It’s just part of the process; it’s totally natural and you know what–it gets a little better, but I’m still nervous before every.single.gig.

Throw out the checklists. You can’t learn to be a great speaker by watching videos or obsessively reading tip sheets (like this one). I don’t care how many instructionals your read, watch or put on your credit card, until you stand on that stage and feel your legs noodle AND you are sweating through your really cute outfit AND you are barfy AND your mouth is all dry AND you can’t remember your name, you won’t start growing as a speaker. You can’t mature until you just do it. It’s like telling a 14-year-old to grow up–wasted breath. You are going to be great–just show up.

Are you spotlight ready? Tell me what you are doing to get there in the comments below.


Shine the light for others; copy and paste these Tweets:

Do you get stage fright? What about stage barf? @DyanaValentine does, too.

Speaker wannabes, listen up! @DyanaValentine offers tips for getting spotlight ready.

Ready to step up to the mic? @DyanaValentine has a few ideas:

  • Anne Kelly

    I remember a couple of years ago when I had to speak in front of the entire staff, including the director and the president, of the museum I worked at.  Up to that point, I had finally mastered speaking at our divisions morning meetings once a week (all friends) without shaking.  I was more than a little nervous when the president offered me her advice, “Just pretend that this is the most natural thing in the world, and never let them know you’re nervous.”  Or, uh, I could just be myself and not pretend!  I went with the myself thing, made a joke of my nervousness and got a good laugh.  Everyone applauded and I had a number of people let me know they enjoyed my speech.  About then, the president grabbed my arm, pulled me aside, and ripped me a new one for not following her advice.  

    Sometimes you have to ignore the advice of “professionals” and go with your gut… even if it’s full of butterflies.  Show up. Be yourself. Barf later.

  • Anonymous

    “You can be too old for a lot of things, but you’re never too old to be scared” – Home Alone

    Dyana – this is incredible and inspiring.  Every single time I lead a group my butterflies start fluttering and my face is flushed.  So glad to know that in you I have another sweaty palm I can high five when I’m headed on that stage.

    And TED is sooo worth every single butterfly- what an amazing accomplishment!

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