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People Who Blend Storytelling In Their Life Live More Awesome

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People Who Blend Storytelling In Their Life Live More Awesome

If you can tell a better story about yourself, you will live a better life. I’m living proof of that. Seven years into my marriage, I felt stuck in reverse. My husband and I were living a safe, status quo, all-American story – decent jobs, good kids and a roof overhead. But it failed to satisfy. Deep down we wanted so much more. And that “so much more” had nothing to do with a fat paycheck or a big home in the suburbs – we wanted our lives to be an unfolding adventure in pursuit of things we loved. So we decided to rewrite the script of our lives and invite some adventure in.

It came at a high cost – we quit our jobs, put our house on the market and sold everything in it. We also moved 4,000 miles apart to gain clarity. But the reward has been great – my husband is back in school at the age of 42 while I reinvent myself and my career. We feel fully alive as we live out a story that’s 100 percent authentically our own.

There is so much power in story. If you need help reframing the story of your life but don’t know where to begin, take your cue from The Moth. When it comes to storytelling, they do it best. Here’s why incorporating their techniques will help you gain the guidance you need to walk in your truth.

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1.  You may not have an epic story but no matter how small, it’s significant.

When The Moth storytellers step up to the mic, they assume the air of quiet confidence that everyone has a story worth telling. Yes, there’s the writer who moved to Jerusalem to be a part of the peace process but there’s also the daughter of a stripper who learned some cool life lessons from her free-spirited mother. Every story is worth listening to.

2. You’ll be tempted to give an intro but start with the hook instead.

If your beginning is bad, no one will listen to the end. So make your beginning bold. In my seven years as a radio broadcaster, how I framed my stories changed one day when consultant Tracy Johnson shared, “If you don’t start a story with a good hook, 50 percent of your audience will tune out immediately.” It’s true.

3. You might want to get stuck in the conflict zone but a good story ends with overcoming.

Storyteller extraordinaire Donald Miller says the premise of any good story involves conflict you must overcome, but it’s the end of the story, the overcoming, that truly inspires. Only you have the power to craft that ending. Think through how you want your story to end. The Moth states, “Your last line should be clear in your head before you start.”

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4. Consider this: What would your story sound like if you spoke from an authentic place, forgetting about pleasing your listening audience?

I think you’ll find as you share honestly from the heart, you’ll connect authentically with other people. Storytelling Tip #6 from The Moth is: No standup routines. The world isn’t a stage where you get to be a funnyman sharing your best zingers. The world is a place hungry for people who desire deep connection.

5. Your life is far from perfect but that just means it’s more interesting in scope and depth.

As you rehearse your story “Moth-style,” you’ll hold your own life right up to the light and realize it’s beautiful because of its fractures – not in spite of them. The illusion of perfection is not “Moth-worthy.” Case in point: the story of road rage that landed a new mom in jail. Totally imperfect. But crazy interesting.

6. You need to save your preaching because there’s no “moral of the story.”

The quickest way to make your audience snooze is by talking down to them. It’s insulting and fails to ring with truth. No one has the monopoly on truth. The Moth recently featured a tour guide who confronted racism at work and a man addicted to cookies! They each tell equally compelling stories because we’re all a work in progress on a journey towards wholeness.

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7. You might want to stage your life but you’ve got to go with the flow.

Whether you’re at a networking event or giving a presentation in the boardroom, it helps to have bullet points in your mind to keep you on track, but you need to flex and switch gears if need be. The Moth instructs people to imagine they’re “at a dinner party, not a deposition.” No scripts are allowed at “the Moth.” No papers. No props.

8. You know what you have to gain but what do you have to lose?

A good story comes at a cost. The Moth believes unless your story has some stakes, it’s not worth telling.The most memorable stories involve great risk and the potential for great reward. They involve transformation. Deep emotional truth. Vulnerability. Risking a broken heart. Going for broken to chase a dream.

9. Lighten up a little – life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies but it sure isn’t all bad, either.

Practice gratitude in the little things. Once you pay attention to details you ordinarily overlook in the course of your day, it might wake you up to a full-on flow of a thousand things to be grateful for. Even the darkest story shared on The Moth weaves in humor and moments of levity.

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10. Practice does not make perfect – it makes for perfectly imperfect.

The temptation is always there to memorize line for line to recite a script with a steel-trap memory. But that’s not real, is it? And if something isn’t real, it won’t resonate. I’ve stood onstage after sweating out a speech word-for-word…only to have it fall flat. Why? Because it’s contrived. Should you practice? Absolutely. But don’t spend the bulk of your time manufacturing an image that’s dishonest.

11. Venting is not fuel for a great story – leave your anger out of it.

You’ve got anger issues? So does 99 percent of the population. This fails to intrigue or inspire. If you need to let off steam, call a shrink. Then get back to work on telling a story worth listening to. No one wants to hear a monologue spewing hatred. Most of us can get that by walking down the street. Aim higher for your sake – and everyone else’s.

12. It’s your story – not your friend’s story.

This is Rule #4 for everyone who submits a pitch to The Moth. You don’t get to hijack the stories of your loved ones and pass it off as your own. Have the courage to live your own story and tell it with heart. The greatest weapon you have against self-doubt lies in the narrative you’ll create to communicate your truth. The most powerful story you’ll ever tell is yours and yours alone.

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Featured photo credit: El Nariz via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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