E067 - How to speak in public with authority and authenticity

Jun 14, 2024

In this episode I write a bit more about how to be your most relaxed, magnetic, easy self in front of the camera or when you’re speaking in public—in a way that doesn't involve 10,000 hours of over-preparation and a whole lot of overthinking!

In my last post I wrote about receiving feedback from mentors and people I trust that I could be more real and authentic in my videos. That led me into a deep dive that I’m just coming up from now, and I shot another video on the subject of what it means to be authentic in public.

Watch the video or read on below.

 When I shoot a video, I’ve often got special lights set up, I'm staring at a camera, and I'm sitting in a chair in my studio talking to nobody. The pressure is on: now be real, be your best self, be authentic! But it's almighty strange to try to be authentic while talking to a camera in an empty room. If you’ve already tried it, you’ll know that it's completely different from talking to other actual people!

So if you speak in public or in groups, and especially if you speak to a camera, expect there to be a good level of weirdness about it. Our nervous systems kind of hype up, and they can go into a lot of fear and adrenalize us. So prepare to feel weird, prepare to play with it… prepare to be deeply imperfect and try to enjoy the journey.

The more I speak or perform in public, the less seriously I take it. I'm deadly serious about the work I do with voices and communication, and I love coaching and helping people feel comfortable speaking and sharing themselves with the world… but this malarkey of sitting in front of a camera… well, it's nice to have fun with, and I think it's there to explore. It's definitely not a medium where I intend to over-scrutinize my performance and heap criticism on myself.

Let's go into some pointers about how to drop into more safety, comfort, and ease with the camera on, or when you’re standing in front of a bunch of people.

The first thing is to stop putting ourselves under so much pressure. Everyone—and I include myself in this—puts themselves under so much pressure to be good, to be confident, to be authentic, to be funny, to be natural.

It’s not easy, but if we just start backing ourselves, saying “How I'm doing right now is enough”… then it gets a lot easier.

Of course, most people I work with have a critical voice that says “I don't do it well enough, and I resent the way I show up, and I'm angry with myself.” We judge ourselves and punish ourselves for how we show up on video. The topsy-turvy solution here is to lower our expectations. Just say, “Here I am. I'm taking my time out to talk to the internet. Why should I punish myself about how I show up here?”

So this is an invitation to slow down, drop into your body, care less, and support yourself more.

This dropping of standards is exceptionally important, because we have a tendency to take ourselves way too seriously and to care too much about what others think. The fix is to care less, to not worry about success or failure, and to experiment.

This brings me to point number two: no one has a scarier opinion about us than ourselves. We project that other people will say we're crap at this or we shouldn't do it like this. We imagine people judging us, but no one is crueller than ourselves. We should really be terrified of our inner critic, because that's what's genuinely scary!

But because this is an inside job we can work on it ourselves—it’s not out of our control. If we can help soothe the inner critic and make them feel safe being imperfect, being a sloppy, beautiful emerging human being, then it all becomes much more fun.

And that's what I'm working on now, is just learning to show up and completely accept myself as I am in this moment. Saying “World[—actually Jeremy, because we know he's the scary guy inside—]this is as good as I've got right now. I actually can't do anything more entertaining or better.” I mean, I could put a clown suit on or try to drop into my body and just be my mostest namaste, grounded self, maybe. But here I am, this is how I'm showing up right now.

And it's gotta be enough. It's all I've got.

That's the edge that I'm playing with: This is what I've got.

Let’s take this a step further for the freezers and people who feel deeply self-judging when they see themselves on camera or hear the sound of their own voice. Conditioning can be very, very intense, and I know what it's like to see yourself on camera and judge yourself and feel like it’s just never good enough.

It's a hugely important pattern to work with.

So let's just say you're talking on camera or speaking in front of people and you feel the start of the pattern that leads you to freeze. We usually overlay that feeling, that awareness, with “This shouldn't be happening. I shouldn't be freezing, make it stop”…but this “it shouldn't be happening” feeling is part of what keeps us frozen. Because it is happening.

When I work with groups or with my one-on-one students, we work on going into the freeze to feel what it's like and to see if we can stop rejecting it in the moment. And the moment someone has permission to freeze in real time—"No, no, no, no, I'm so mortified this is happening”—instead we just freeze. What's the worst that could happen?

Because when you slide into the freeze and stop rejecting it, it starts to unwind. We just need the opportunity to go into that freeze safely and see that it's not so bad. When we choose to stop judging it, we can begin to release it.

My next point is a recurring theme in my work: self-regulating our nervous systems. Grounding and centering ourselves to become more present. Become more focused, more centered, more present.

Take a deep breath.

Count to four.

Slow down.

When speaking with others or in a group, one of the most magical things we can do is to take the space to breathe and count silently to four.

Ground yourself all the time while presenting or even prior to presenting. When we ground ourselves we can move out of that freeze or that anxiety—in my case, when I'm performing or the camera’s on, I feel a kind of excited tension—into a relaxed presence. Just moving into that embodiment modulates it and slows it down.

I'm just here.

The last category is the prompt that was shared with me by mentors and friends: leaning into your authority. Let me demonstrate.

The work I do is to support people to undo freezing and anxiety and any form of public-speaking, group-speaking, or being-visible conditioning. I stumbled into this as a trauma facilitator and a singer and a coach. I fell into the body of work that I call my Radiant Voices Process, but I have learned to very effectively support people to unfreeze their voices and learn to feel safe to fully express themselves in the world.

I think I'm one of the best at this in the world. I don't know anybody who teaches the methods that I teach. I'm proud of it and super happy to be doing it, but my point is that I don't often slow down and express really clearly that this is what I do, this is what I care about. This is an area in which I have authority, and this is what I do day in and day out. I see people learn to stop blushing in a matter of two or three sessions, or reduce anxiety by maybe 50% within weeks or months when presenting to groups.

That was me slowing down and expressing my authority. It’s still a work in progress for me. I want to be able to express very clearly what I'm good at and what I love doing.

Let me know how that landed for you, and whether you could feel me speaking about my authority or if it sounded like some guy bragging randomly and I need to keep working at it.

My last point is that part of authenticity is also learning to let out our weird instead of trying to be a kind of perfect self; to let our unique, lovely, quirky self out and to be seen in the world. I’m still working on this, too. I’m probably much weirder and funnier than I show up here. I'm still learning how and when to let that out in public.

So being quirky, being playful, and taking myself less seriously is an edge for me. It's an area of play, but I'm remembering to enjoy myself just as I am—this is enough; this is good enough for me.

So that’s what I've been mulling over recently: how to show up on camera or public to speak in a way that feels easy, light, powerful, authoritative, and authentic—in other words, how to be my most magnetic self while speaking and sharing myself with the world.

How to be visible and have fun and for it to feel kind of effortless while I do it!

Let me know what you think.

Please drop an email if this lands with you, and tell me whether you'd be willing to just show up as you are, inclusive of stuttering or freezing or blushing or whatever happens to you–to accept yourself as you are.