(That's me addressing my Inner Critic!)
MEETING THE 11TH PRESIDENT OF TURKEY AND INSIGHTS ON PUBLIC SPEAKING WITH NO PREP!
Having set up my business just under 11 months ago, I have come amazingly far.
In that time, I've gone from running £10 meet-up groups in a dilapidated church hall on Exmouth Market to hosting Leadership and Pitching workshops for global corporate players in London, New York, San Francisco and Brussels.
A few weeks ago, I was in the EU training delegates to pitch their businesses to investors, and most recently, I hosted a conference to over 1000 delegates in Istanbul, where I got to introduce the 11th President of Turkey, firmly shaking his hand and giving him a little wink ofcourse!
I mention this not to gloat, but to highlight that I practice exactly what I teach. Think big, no half measures and always go for it!
I didn’t used to be this way....
I’ve played small for much of my life and felt highly depressed about my unrealised potential, finally hitting rock bottom in May 2017. My relationship ended, I was heartbroken and generally felt pretty useless. I had little money, a job I hated and limited self-belief; I thought I was a failure.
Luckily, my beloved younger sister picked me up and took me to Istanbul to cheer me up.
Sitting in our hotel room one evening, she looked at me and said with absolute directness:
"Come on Amy, just launch a bloody website and start your own business!".
I’d been talking about doing just that for three years; however, I'd never done anything about it. In fact, I had always found a myriad of ways and reasons to stall myself. Classic fear-based procrastination.
So, my wise sister ordered a couple of strong tequila cocktails, and we both worked till the early hours; she on her investment stuff, whilst I wrote copy for this new scary wonderful website.
By early morning, I’d finished my first ever webpage. I took the plunge and hit launch!.
Now, that might sound easy enough. All I’m doing is pressing a button, right?
But it wasn’t easy. It had taken me years to get to the point where I trusted myself enough to put myself out there in what felt like a major way.
Pressing launch was a BIG deal. We drank another tequila cocktail to celebrate.
And, to my complete surprise, from that point on, my business grew exceptionally fast. Not because I know any special business tricks, or because I have some secret marketing sauce. You see, I’ve never listened to the so-called gurus or experts, and I barely use social media or self-publicise as, I’m actually quite introverted.
Instead, I believe my success to date is wholly the result of my renewed sense of conviction, spurred on - of course - by my sister that evening in a Turkish hotel. Sometimes, we don’t realise our own strength until someone who cares about and understands us reminds us of our potential. And, when that happened, it dawned on me that if I could haul myself up off the floor through some of the toughest moments in my life, then there’s no reason why I can’t make my business project a great success. Resilience is my middle name. Think huge, act quick and commit 100 per cent!
And, most importantly, care... Always care about the quality of your attention.
That's my secret sauce.
Like most people, I have an inner critic that accuses me of not being good enough. However, I’ve also developed another much louder, brighter, sassier voice that looks the inner critic squarely in the eye and says: 'Sit the f*** down and shut the f*** up!. I’m in charge now, bitch!.
And that feels good.
What I've learned is that our personal and business success is directly connected to the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves. The more you believe in and trust yourself, the greater the risk you dare to take. And, with courage on your side and the inner critic firmly relegated to the naughty step, you’re free to dream really big and act even bigger without fear of recriminations or personal attack. After years of living in fear of my own “good” opinion - as well as the opinion of others - what a joy it is to no longer care. I can’t quite describe the freedom and sense of empowerment. And to think, I spent years hiding myself and even crying whenever I got asked to speak up. I used to feel such shame.
The less we care for the judgements of our inner critic, the better our results - and this goes for all areas of our life. In fact, there is no limit to how far we can go: the possibilities are endless - and it's exciting.
That’s not to say I always get things perfect or right. Far from it. I’m actually quite a messy, often conflicted human despite my outwardly “together” appearance. However, if I waited until I was supposedly perfect before I committed to any dream or action, I would still be sitting in my pokey bedroom mindlessly looking through Facebook feeds wondering why I exist. Instead, I’m now hosting one of the biggest conferences in Turkey and introducing their 11thPresident - and I don't even speak Turkish and can barely pronounce his name!.
Lets be frank: I made a few “mistakes” that weekend. I got words wrong, walked into a wall and said a naughty word on live TV! What was even worse was that I got pushed onto the stage at the last minute in front of a thousand people and told to speak for half an hour “to make sure no one leaves before the president arrives!”
Yes really, and I had no speech prepared! So, imagine the pressure....
But, as I myself have done over the past year, I walked directly towards my fear, stood centre-stage, looked my audience in the eye and smiled... And, as I always instruct my students, I stood tall, owned my space and took a very deep soothing breath. Only then, when I felt the power of my own presence, did I start talking - or ad-libbing to be accurate!
What did I really have to loose? It’s always only ever a personal conversation; albeit one on a bigger stage and to a larger audience. And, most importantly, I enjoyed myself, I involved my audience and I let them matter.
Also, no one in the audience cared about my mistakes. Why? Because I didn’t care about my mistakes. They’re not a problem to me. In fact, I welcomed every slight error with a warm smile and a mischievous glint. Because I know that if I am at ease, my audience is at ease. Lightness of touch and a sense of humour is ALWAYS infectious.
What I do care about is human connection, well above seeking personal perfection. Because, that’s all that ever matters. That’s how I win. That’s how we all win. And that’s how I managed to connect with such a large audience for 30 minutes whilst making an entire speech up as I went along. I greeted my audience with warmth and made them feel important. Because they are.
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” - Theodore Roosevelt.
So what’s key when it comes to public speaking, presentations or general presence in business?
The answer is YOU!
You just have to be you. Find out who you are by taking risks and learning the resilience that comes with each daring experience. Let go of the struggle. It doesn’t have to be so hard. All you need do is simply TRY. Step out of your comfort zone and let yourself create, and with compassion, allow yourself to make mistakes. What’s so wrong with imperfection anyway? Share your humanity, and people will love you for it. Because it gives the rest of us permission to do the same.