Being comfortable on stage is important for speakers and aspiring speakers. This is even true for those introverts out there. From the beginning, I considered myself an extrovert. I don’t know if that’s a learned behavior or not, but I grew up as a preacher’s kid watching my dad preach a sermon to a church every Sunday. We would do a lot of traveling as a family going to different churches that were a part of our denomination, so as a kid of a traveling pastor, I spent a lot of time getting called up on stage. My sister and I jokingly called us the “Dixon Family Singers” because there was always a part in the sermon where my dad would invite us to come on stage, and the two of us would sing. I didn’t have an option as a kid, so I did it. That experience helped me feel comfortable on stage.
Over time I’ve continued as a speaker, and I actually really love speaking. In some recent talks that I’ve done, I’ve had people come up to me and say, “Wow! Why are you so comfortable on stage? How do I get more comfortable on stage?”
I want to help you by sharing three tips to help you be more comfortable on stage.
1. Know who your audience is.
One little hack is I never like to go first and kick off a conference. I love to go on the last day — near the end. The reason for that is because it gives me ample opportunity to get to know the audience in the room. Because the truth is, every conference is different. Every audience is different. And it’s important to understand who’s in the room.
I think to myself:
- Where are they right now?
- What are they concerned about?
- What are they thinking about?
- What’s on their mind and heart?
- What are they hungry to know?
To know your audience means to be in tune with the people that you’re trying to deliver a message to.
I speak at a number of blogging conferences. At a recent one, I spent the first day doing about twenty 1:1 coaching sessions. Through this, I really got to know the attendees in a deep way. Each session was about 15 minutes. So I spent about five hours getting to know the attendees on the first day of the conference. That way, the next day I could specifically speak to at least 20 people who I’d coached. I knew if I could speak specifically to them, to their mind and heart, then statistically I would probably reach the rest of the audience.
Another example is that I was recently up in Erie, Pennsylvania speaking to a group of roofers who owned roofing companies. I knew that even though it was a different niche than I was used to, they still had an audience and wanted to amplify their message in their products. I could speak to that audience, too. When I walked in, the three people at the registration table were all Amish. I thought, “This is interesting. I guess the Amish like to volunteer at events in Pennsylvania!” And then I walked into the room and noticed almost every single person in the conference room of about 200 people were Amish. I had never met an Amish person before. So I thought, “Oh, I’m going to have to change my slides because I don’t think the Amish use cars. I don’t think they use cellphones, and I know they’re not on Facebook.” The whole session I planned was about how they can discover their audience using social media.
When I got to know my audience, I knew I needed to make changes to my presentation. So I spent time in the hallway between sessions sitting down at tables and talking to the attendees. I tried to shake every single person’s hand, because I want to know my audience. Later on in the day when it was my session, I made sure that my message connected with this new-to-me audience.
Changing my message for my audience was a way that I could start with my people that day. My people were the Amish people in the room. I needed to reframe my message so that it would really connect with them.
2. Know your content.
To be excellent at what you do, consider the old trope of a Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours.
Don’t try to teach something brand new that you’ve never tried before and you don’t know if it works. Teach what you know; teach what you do in your business every day. Know your content so well even if all the things go wrong like the Powerpoint doesn’t work, the slide projector is dead, the video that you plan on playing is gone, and even the microphone doesn’t work. You’re left with just you and your audience, but you know, bleed, and sweat your content so well that it’s okay!
If you asked me any question about your message and your products, I could help you because that’s what I do every single day through my Clarity Sessions, Clarity Coaching, Amplify Method Course, through speaking at conferences, Hope*Writers, and through my books.
You got to know your content, and know your content well. I’ve heard it said that if you read two books on a topic, you know more than 95% of the population. Does that make you an expert? Does that mean that you’re really comfortable with your content? If not, get to know your content. The best way to get to know your content is to create content. So, start a podcast, share on YouTube, tell a friend, do coaching, and speak at conferences. The more you speak, the more you get to know your own voice in your content.
3. Know yourself to understand yourself.
In Start with Your People, I talk about the four tests that I recommend everybody take to create their “manual”: Strength Finder, Kolbe, Enneagram, and the 5 Love Languages. The answers to those are my user manual. That’s how I make sure the machine works at its highest capacity. So as an example, my love language is words of affirmation, so I know that I need to hear, “Brian. You’re awesome man. I think you’re rocking it. I think you’re going to knock it out of the park.” Words are so valuable to me. I love when I show up to an event and I get a nice note from the conference planner that says, “Brian, I’m so glad you’re here. I know you’re going to do well” instead of a bottle of wine sent to the hotel room.
Words of affirmation comes in the card. The card is so much more valuable to me than the gift. When one of my team members or my wife sends me a text that says, “You’re going to do awesome. It’s going to be great.” That fires me up and gets me excited about speaking. One way to know yourself is to understand how you’re going to be feeling. Likely it will be nervous. So understand that and then know how you need yourself to respond according to your “manual.”
As an Enneagram three, it’s all about achieving for me. But if a speaker is an Enneagram seven, it’s all about fun. Someone who wants fun will think of ways to get people excited! Another one of my friends is an Enneagram four. She’s more of an artist, so she wants to make something unique. She cares about things like the lighting and the sound in the room.
Know yourself. Know how you’re going to show up for the event. I know for me, I get so excited by hearing the stories in the room, and I’m pretty good off the cuff. I’m good at looking out at the audience and using specific examples in the room, and I need those anchors to check if my message is really connecting. The way I do it is knowing my audience and myself.
I was doing a talk the other day at a conference and scheduled at 2:30 — the time Brian fades. It’s when I start to slow down for the day like the mid-afternoon blues. I had to take out my AirPods, put them in, put on some loud rap and get motivated and excited. I listened to the whole song behind the stage bouncing. That’s what got me fired up because I know myself. I know I need a little bit of amping up in order to really deliver on stage.
So understand what has worked in the past to get you ready to speak and what can potentially drain your energy or distract you and make sure you eliminate those distractions so you can really show up for the people who hired you to deliver.
I would love to come speak to your audience. So if you’re looking for a high-energy speaker to help people clarify their audience, their message, and their products, I’m your guy. You can learn more about my speaking here.
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