If you want to succeed as a creative professional, sooner or later you’re going to have to stand up in front of an audience and persuade them of the value of your work.
If you’re a writer you’ll be invited to give readings and talks.
If you’re an artist you’ll be asked to talk about your work at salons and exhibitions.
If you’re an agency creative, you’ll have to pitch ideas to your colleagues and clients.
If you’re an entrepreneur you’ll need to tell investors and potential buyers about your company and products.
If you’re a consultant, you’ll need to persuade clients and conference audiences of the value of your ideas.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to avoid any of the above – but if you hide away behind your Mac, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities. And your potential listeners will miss the chance to experience you and your work.
If you’re feeling a little nervous at the thought, you’re in good company: in surveys, public speaking is consistently ranked as one of the top things that scare the living daylights out of human beings (up there with death, heights, confined spaces, and of course mice and spiders).
And if you’re a natural introvert like me, then stepping out in front of an audience may feel like the last thing you want to do. But if you really want to take advantage of all the opportunities that are waiting out there for you, you’re going to have to find a way to do it.
Realising this many years ago, I gritted my teeth and resolved to learn presentation skills. I went on courses. I read books and watched videos of great presenters. I got a coach to help me.
It took a lot of trial and error. In the early years, several audiences suffered nearly as much as I did. But I managed to do it, eventually delivering hundreds of successful training workshops, and presenting at conferences in Europe and the US.
These days, I even teach public speaking – Creative Presentation Skills is one of my most popular courses. Speaking to an audience is so normal I rarely give it a second thought. But the whole learning journey came back to me recently, when author and speaker Joanna Penn interviewed me for her book Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts.
Joanna is a fellow introvert, and wrote the book to help people like us who are naturally more at home in the library than on the podium. She asked me some great questions, and we covered a range of topics in the 45-minute interview, including:
- Why introversion isn’t the same as shyness
- Should you ever speak for free?
- Why a presentation should be a life-changing experience
- How I prepare for a presentation
- How to deal with challenging audiences
- The difference between professional speaking and performing as a poet
Watch the video (you may need to click through to the website if you’re an email subscriber) and use it as an opportunity to reflect on your own experience of, and ambitions for, sharing your ideas as a speaker.
And if you’re serious about improving your speaking skills, you should check out Joanna’s book – it was written for people just like you.
Over to you
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to public speaking?
What opportunities will open up for you if you become a confident speaker?
Any tips for overcoming your nerves and learning to love the stage?
Don’t be shy! 😉 Please tell me it’s not just us introverts who have to suffer. Feel free to share your challenges and tips when it comes to public speaking.
Mark McGuinness is a poet and a coach for creative professionals. For a free 26-week creative career guide (including a lesson on creative presentation skills) sign up for Mark’s course The Creative Pathfinder.
Joanna Penn is a best-selling author and in-demand speaker. To become a more confident and creative speaker read her book Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts.