What I learnt from my first speaking experience at Ignite Brisbane
It has been a while since my last blog post. This doesn't mean there hasn't been anything going on...to the contrary. I had a wonderful experience on Thursday the 19th July which I thought would be worthwhile sharing.
I had the unbelievable privilege and pleasure to be one of 13 speakers to present at the (re)launch of Ignite Brisbane. Ignite is a global initiative allowing local organisers in cities all over the planet to stage Ignite events for anyone to nominate themselves to get up on stage and "have a go". The premise of the Ignite events are each speakers is tasked with "enlighten us but make it quick" meaning speeches are only 5 mins (max) in length whilst 20 slides are auto timed meaning each slide only allows 15 seconds of speaking - yikes!
The event was organised by Cath Molloy and Richard Hansen both seasoned and well experienced speakers, trainers and facilitators themselves. My goal in starting this journey with Thinking Mechanics is to become a public and corporate speaker to help individuals transform and prosper in their lives. In saying that, I have not had a huge amount of experience in speaking however have had ample stage experience and feedback in the past that gave me a strong amount of confidence in my stage speaking abilities. So, it was a no-brainer to hold my hand up and apply to be one of the speakers at the Ignite Brisbane event. It was a happy day when the email came through that said I had been accepted to speak. Brilliant! Then the flood of thoughts came roaring in...."what am I actually going speak about?", "What happens if I can't do it?" , "What happens if I am too nervous to deliver a good speech?" and so the questions kept coming. The irony that I have a website called Thinking Mechanics and I had planned to do a talk about becoming a thinking mechanic however there I was allowing my thoughts to run ragged! So, I got myself in order...policed my thoughts and said to myself "stop wasting time on the doubting thoughts and start investing in empowering ones instead".
It was on a weekend after I had been accepted to speak whilst I was out with my family I happened to recognize a guest speaker that had come to a local Toastmasters club I attend. At the club the guest speaker delivered a very engaging talk and I thought to myself then "wow, he would be good to learn from....". I was at the lookout on Mt Cootha (in Brisbane, AU) when I noticed him sitting down at the cafe. I went over and said hello and mentioned the Ignite Brisbane event and asked if he had entered. At that stage he had not so based on my recommendation he also entered and subsequently got accepted. as one of the speakers. Based on the recommendation he graciously offered to help me prepare my speech by providing a couple of coaching sessions. Amazing how things turn out and as it transpired this was the greatest gift I could have received.
So, three weeks before the Ignite event I had my first coaching session providing me with some amazing tips and tricks about how to start constructing my speech. After returning home my coach followed up with some accountability emails informing me of where I should be up to in my preparatory process. The first step was to get the speech's script prepared. Based on my coach's recommendation I divided a spreadsheet into 20 rows - one for each slide - and then embarked on creating the speech out of the proverbial ether.
24 hrs later, I'm done - first draft of the speech created and I am pretty proud of myself - first go and I nailed it....or so I thought. Although not explicitly discussed as part of our coaching arrangement I sent through a copy of my first draft to my coach asking if he would take a scan through it and offer any feedback. I wasn't expecting much as he was also preparing his own speech. He came back quickly with an email that started like this "great start Nick, but....". In a kind and constructive way I was told that is was all about "me, me, me, I, I, I". None of my speech was serving the audience, it was serving me. Wow, what great feedback. He was absolutely right. He also mentioned that every budding speaker starts there...their testimony, their story, their why. One day - that can be heard but for the Ignite Brisbane event it was about how your story was going to help the audience. After all, the Ignite events are all about "enlightening" the audience.
Eight drafts later, and slightly more nervously I had my second coaching session to review how I had improved my first draft of the speech. It was a relief to get the feedback that my latest draft was a lot better and was more engaging and served the audience in a better way. This provided me a much needed dose of confidence. We then focused on how the speech was going to help the audience. What can they learn from the speech? What are the take-aways for them? This was a great process to go through and during the session we landed on three key items to share with the audience.
After the second session there was one week to go before the event so I honed the script - got the 20 slides prepared and then PRACTICED!!!!! I Iearnt the script first then just started saying it over and over again where ever I could. In the shower...practiced the speech. Food shopping...practice the speech (whilst looking slightly insane to on lookers). Driving in the car - practice the speech. I also got friends and family over to my place - sat them in front of the TV and then delivered the speech to the slides which were automatically moving every 15 secs.
By the time the event rolled around I was ready...well, as ready as I was ever going to be. The night itself was immense and an amazing experience. I was able to deliver my speech - almost to time...I think I was a few seconds over. I got great feedback as well as one key area to improve on...slow down. The excitement of the whole night translated into me talking really quickly.
So - in the spirit of serving the audience - what did I learn from this experience. Overall I leanrt a lot.
1. GET A COACH!
If you haven't done something in your life but have a good level of confidence you can do it, you have ability and some exposure to it then to fast track your development - get a coach. I have heard this a million times but to be frank it is the first time I have ever pursued it. I can safely say that without the coaching sessions I had I would not have been able to delivered what I did on the stage that night. I think the golden rule with finding a coach is are they where you want to be (whether that is in mindset, vocation, lifestyle, relationships, skill set)? If they are, they can help you get there too,
2. BE TEACHABLE
It is all well and good having a coach but if you don't listen to them and then put in to play what they have advised you to do then you have basically wasted their time and yours. It is important to be humble, know that you don't know everything, and that when a coach provides feedback that could be reacted to defensively - don't react definitively. Feedback is someone else's experiences being provided to you which is basically saying "don''t do the same mistakes I did - do it this way instead".
My coach taught me one big lesson. Its about the audience, not about you. So true and so important. The question he asked me were;
1. How are you serving the audience?
2. How can you honor the platform that you have been blessed to speak on?
3. How can you take it from "me" to talk about "you"
4. How do you take your "why" and provide the audience with a "how"?
You don't need to be a speaker to heed the wisdom from these questions. Ultimately - we are all serving someone or some people. How can we better serve those we serve now and in the future?
If you have been waiting in the metaphorical wings before getting out there to speak or present or for that matter to do any thing your heart yearns to do - don't wait any longer. My personal belief is when you are operating in your passion, doing what you are passionate about and what you believe in then this transfers over to other people to help them and inspire them to do the same in their life. It's life's beautiful domino effect.
The next Brisbane Ignite meeting is on the October 25th in Brisbane at the Broncos Leagues Club. All the the ignite speeches that occur around the world are on the Ignite global website found at www.ignitetalks.io.