Years ago, I spoke to a few thousand people. I can still remember standing on that stage. Nervous does not describe how I felt. I was terrified.
Edward R. Murrow, a broadcast journalist with more than 30 years of experience, said, “the best speakers know enough to be scared…the only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly in formation.”
He was right, but it is easier said than done. I got through that speech for one reason. I practiced. I practiced a lot. I practiced so much that the words came to me. Very naturally and seemingly unrehearsed.
I have given a lot of speeches since that day and now teach a class called Platform Skills to help people with public speaking. What is the theme of this class? You guessed it: plan, prepare, and… practice. Practice is key.
Nervous or terrified like I was? Practice.
Say ah and um a lot? Practice.
There are some basic rules for public speaking, such as knowing your audience. While important, what separates good speakers from everyone else is their ability to train the butterflies. To take the rules and important lessons and make it all look effortless. This is done through practice. Lots of practice.
I can think of a lot of stories to illustrate this point but one of my favorites is that of Usain Bolt. Usain Bolt was an Olympic sprinter from Jamaica who won eight gold medals in three Olympic games. In the Olympic finals, he ran 114 seconds. That is less than 2 minutes to win eight gold medals and the millions of dollars that resulted from it.
For those 2 minutes, he practiced for 20 years.
Public speaking, sports, everything, is about the time you put into it. Success does not happen because of one day or one event; it happens because of the time you put into it to make it successful.
Consider these suggestions:
Your audience took their time to listen to you so give them what they deserve: your best. Will you still be scared? Probably. I know I was. But practice got me through it and practice can help you train your butterflies.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training