Okay so I’m going to let you into a little secret. I DREAD public speaking. Honestly! When I get a request to talk at an event or a school, I bubble with pride. It’s one of the best feelings in the world knowing that your messages want to be heard and you have the opportunity to really reach people. But inside, I’m terrified! I have to work damn hard when it comes to finding the courage to speak. And I know you can go with the whole ‘fake it until you make it’, but sometimes, when I first stand up on that stage, I’m thinking- dear god, I can’t even ‘fake’ this! The fear has got to be transparent on my face right now! I always feel my chest tighten, my breathing physically becomes more difficult and sometimes – when my voice first comes out – it just feels so WEAK. Like a little whimper! Yet it is at that point I always have to remind myself: what I am doing is far from weak. In fact, it takes so much strength and courage to even just get up there. It’s certainly not everyone could or would do. It’s tough! There’s really no denying it. But as you get over that initial terror, and you start getting through your talk, letting your passion take over so that the words then begin to really flow: it’s such an empowering feeling.
The last talk I did was a few months back now. But it was such an insane week! I had two fully booked days of meetings in London then Birmingham, a day of video editing from a previous shoot, some massive new campaigns launched for clients and then to finish it off- I then attended Young Enterprise Semi-Finals Showcase Event as the Guest Speaker for the night. But wow- what an experience that was!
Young Enterprise are the UK’s leading charity for empowering young people to harness their personal and business skills. One man’s passion for enterprise has inspired over 3.8 million young people to discover and reach their potential over the past 50 years. They’re now a National Charity working on many of the things I work on with others myself. So to be asked to become part of that: sharing my story and journey through entrepreneurship at such an important event, well- it was honestly such an honour. The reception was amazing, the talk went down a treat with cheers & flowers to finish, and the experience as a whole really moved me.
Ian Smith, the Deputy Chairman & Area Board of Young Enterprise said,
Ella was the Keynote speaker at this years Young Enterprise South Worcestershire Showcase Event, with an audience of our team semi-finalists, teachers, parents, advisors and businesses.
Ella is a self-made young woman who instantly gained rapport with the students and adults alike with her passionate presentation about her own life journey. It had started with a seemingly idyllic childhood, but all changed with one event in her teenage years which knocked her life completely off course. She talked about her inspirational personal fight to turn her life back around after slipping into very dark places. But how it led to a career in business, mentoring, coaching, becoming an author sharing the information and guidance she felt was missing for teenage girls. Ella has great strength of character and has developed a business which fits her desired lifestyle in which she is already a seasoned world traveller with a true world view that only adds to her talks.
The audience were captivated and found her very inspirational. As the MC of the event with a key role within the charity, I thoroughly enjoyed working with Ella but more importantly getting to meet her and spend some time with her.”
His kind words mean such a lot, and to have had a positive impact (despite being a bit shaky in parts!), it made it all worthwhile. I’m still at the start of my speaker journey, but every talk I do, I learn more not only about myself and my style, but I grow and get inspired through meeting all the incredible new people whilst I’m there. The Showcase Event was particularly special as there were 13-15 teams of teens/ young adults, who also had to do their own pitches in front of the judges. It was a pretty big thing. (I was just there to break up the event and provide some inspiration whilst the judges were deliberating!) To see them all stand up their despite their nerves, it just touched my heart and took me back to when I was in their shoes- only back then, I would certainly have not had the confidence to do what they was doing! It was also great to hear about the projects they’ve been working on (developing new business ideas from scratch) and how they’ve grown so much as people because of it. One lad in particular said how at the start of the programme, he would NEVER have dreamed of getting this far and doing the pitch he was doing now; but it was through the tasks they did in the projects (developing their skills in leadership and sales) that pushed him out of his comfort zone and then gave him the confidence to pitch now. And I just thought: that’s EXACTLY it. He just hit the nail on the head!
I’m a big advocate for young people getting into entrepreneurship and that is exactly why. It makes you grow. It enables you to become more of the person you want to be. And though the knock-backs and learning curves that lead to greater successes, it gives you that real inner confidence.
If I was to give my top pieces of advice to those looking to do more public speaking, or needing that confidence when talking in business, or even just perhaps finding the courage to speak up about the things that are important to them, I guess I would say:
- Believe in yourself. Honestly it sounds so simple but it all starts with belief. It comes from that single thought inside your head that says, “Come on. You know you can do this.” Stop putting yourself down. Stop telling yourself you CAN’T and know that you have everything within you to absolutely nail this. If it’s a speaker talk or a business opportunity, let your passion drive you, know that you’re the best person to do this and are going to give it your absolute all. Don’t strive for perfection but see it as an experience and achievement to even be going up there and going for it! If you’re looking to start speaking up more about issues you care about, things that are personal yet important to you, feel PROUD. Know that by doing this -whether it seems that way now or not- you will have a positive impact and you have a voice that needs to be heard.
- Practice. It doesn’t matter if you’re standing up in front of a crowd, putting an idea forward in a meeting, or even just speaking up to address an issue to a friend: it pays back to practice and know what you’re going to say. You don’t have to know it word-for-word; in fact if you try to do this, it will just knock you off guard if you get even the smallest thing wrong and it actually doesn’t flow as well if you’re simply having to concentrate on your ‘script’ all the time. Instead, jot down key messages, key components, put it into a general sort-of order of themes and then practice. You may find lines you like and want to use (thats good!), you may say more or less the same sort of thing each time (that means you’re on the right track!) but it’s still coming from your heart and flowing naturally.
- Just go for it. I know, I know. Like it’s THAT easy. And it’s not. But sometimes you just have to prepare as much as you possibly can, have the best mindset about it and then simply go for it. And trust me, when it actually comes to it, to begin with it might be the LAST thing you want to be. Uh-huh, there’s been plenty of times when I’ve been tempted to try to fake an illness or drop out, but I never will. Because 1. that wouldn’t be right, and 2. yes there may be a huge amount of fear attached to doing this, but there is a hell of a lot more pain in my mind over NOT doing it. (Here, read more about this on my post: Three Steps To Successfully Achieving All Your Goals and More) And that’s the place you need to get to. The more you do it, the easier it will become.
I’ve been speaking for about a year now and I still find it one of the most challenging aspects of my career, but I choose to keep doing it because I know how important it is. Like I said in my story, I speak up now, to give power back to my voice; to turn the pain of my past into strength; and to give hope to those who are ever struggling or in doubt. When you do the things that you know are right, pushing through any difficulties you may have; at the end there’s no greater feeling and I like to think it’s what life is all about!
If you have any questions, or are struggling with anything in particular when it comes to speaking: please don’t hesitate to reach out via my contact page or pop them in the comments box below and I’ll see how I can help. I’d also love to hear any techniques you use for overcoming the fear of public speaking.