We all recognize the great fear of getting up in front of the class to present. The heart racing, hands sweating and the feeling of your face turning red like a tomato. You want to start digging your own grave even before it is your turn because you know you would not make it out alive. All eyes on you and then.. then you would fall down and disappear into the abyss.
Of course this never happens but public speaking is actually the most common fear we have. 75% of people in the US would say that they have a fear of speaking in public*. So, who would be brave enough to dedicate their career to getting up infront of a crowd to tell stories?
His name is Francisco Mahfuz and he doesn't fear public speaking. He has turned it into a career and even wrote a book about it called: “Bare: A Guide to Brutally Honest Public Speaking”. We had a coffee with Francisco to learn all about his journey.
He was never afraid of public speaking. Since Francisco was a kid he has said yes to every opportunity getting up in front of a crowd to tell a story. He even once became the national champion in public speaking.
Francisco is obviously very good at what he does and he is lucky not to have the fear that many of us struggle with. But even if you are not considering going into public speaking as a full time job. Would it still be necessary for you to practise it?
"The point here is that using public speaking in your job does not have to mean you become a professional public speaker"
The answer is yes! Speaking in public or communicating a message to a crowd is something that most people stumble upon in their careers. Whether you are working as a teacher, scientist, nurse or in retail - you will most probably need to speak in front of people or to people. All to different extents depending on the job.
The point here is that using public speaking in your job does not have to mean you become a professional public speaker. But most jobs require you to be able to deliver a message to someone else. Either to an individual person, to a crowd, on a video call with your team or just by writing an email. All of these examples involve public speaking, even if it might not be in person.
Since so many people have public speaking as their greatest fear. We took the opportunity to ask Francisco how one can get over that fear?
Practice makes perfect
To get better at something and become less nervous about it, you need to practise. There is no escape!
Keep eye contact with your audience
To make the crowd feel smaller when you are on stage. Find a person in the mass that looks nice, make eye conact with that person and speak to only them for a sentence or two. Then move on to the next person across the room that also looks nice, make eye contact and speak only to them. This will make the whole room feel like you have spoken to them even though you have just looked at a few people during your talk.
Focus less on yourself It is not about you it is about your message. People usually don't come to a talk to listen to the speaker, they attend to hear what the speaker has to say. Focus on communicating your message rather than worrying about what people think of you.
What about nerves?
Francisco's advice is to try to channel your nerves as excitement instead. Nerves is a good thing. It means that you care about what you are doing. So try to take advantage of them instead of interpreting them as something negative.
What skills do you need to become a public speaker?
Discipline and work ethic
As a public speaker you are your own brand and you have no one else to hide behind. You want to come across as professional and knowledgeble as possible. To do this Francisco recommends to write the speech a couple of weeks before. Then practice it at least a dussin times before it is time to go up on stage. Knowing your material and arriving well prepared is a great sign of professionalism.
Daring to be vulnerable
A lot of the focus should be on your message but you are also a human being that can make mistakes and get nervous. It happens and we need to be able to show our audience that. This will also help us make an impact. A crowd will empathise more with a person that shows their vulnerability. Empathy also makes people remember you.
You will make a greater impact on an audience if you open with: "Hello everyone, actually I am a bit nervous about this". rather than coming in and saying "Hello everyone, I am awesome and I am going to smash it".
Enthusiasm about life
We all have things happening in our lives that are worth sharing. The stories don't have to be epic, just relatable. Some things might seem too boring to share. But little do you know that there are people out there able to relate to your boring stories too. Like that one time when you went to the store to pick up some apples and came back with milk, bread and a chocolate bar - but no apples. That is a story most of us can relate to, because we all forget stuff, right?
So what's next for Francisco?
As many others right now, he is busy digitalising his job. Many speaking events have been cancelled due to the coronavirus. So has many of Francisco's work trips. Though some events are still being run, but online. So Francisco is still doing some public speaking but online.
Other than that, he is busy producing content for LinkedIn and soon his new podcast will be launching.
Are you looking to explore a career in public speaking? Check out the resources below:
The 110 techniques of communication and public speaking | David JP Phillips | TEDxZagreb: https://youtu.be/K0pxo-dS9Hc
Florian Mueck's LinkedIn public speaking tips: #fminsights
TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
How to get in touch with Francisco:
Get his book: “Bare: A Guide to Brutally Honest Public Speaking”, out now at Amazon https://amzn.to/2IBAAFw
Watch the full chat with Francisco on Xperienceships our YouTube Channel