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GARYVEE’S GUIDE TO PUBLIC SPEAKING WITHOUT sh@tTING YOUR PANTS
IN THIS CHAPTER I TALK ABOUT PUNCHING PEOPLE IN THE MOUTH, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH F-BOMBS, AND STICKING TO WHAT YOU KNOW.
Fun fact: I did not give my first public speech until 2006, when I was thirty-one years old. It was at an Internet conference, and I really didn’t know what to expect. But the second I took that stage my world was never the same. Sometimes I wonder if my real talent is public speaking, not building businesses. I enjoy it almost as much. There may be no greater high for me than that second right before I walk out onstage; it feels like home. It’s no secret that I like to hear myself talk, and this gives me the perfect excuse, but I really do tremendously enjoy connecting with my audience. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to speak to so many people on a regular basis.
If you’ve done a good job of building your brand, there is a good chance someone will ask you for an interview, or to sit on a panel, and eventually, if you’re really good, to host a conference or deliver a keynote address. When this starts happening to you, you’ll know you’re on your way. It’s not only fun, it’s lucrative. I love it. I really freaking love it. I hope I can make you love it, too, if you’re like I was and unaware that it was even in your skill set.
Given how many times I’m asked to speak per year, and the somewhat—how should I put it?—colorful way I tend to express myself, it’s no surprise I’ve gotten a number of questions about public speaking on the show. I hope these answers will help you prepare for your moment in the spotlight.
imageHow do you prepare for an important keynote?
I know some people are absolutely terrified by the idea of speaking in public. If that’s you, and you’re growing a business, I hope you’ll get some help from a counselor or coach. Some people even attend acting, improv, or comedy classes. Finding a way to free yourself from your fear of public speaking is an extremely worthwhile investment, because if you succeed, it sets the potential for an enormous boon to your brand and business.
The benefit of doing keynotes or talks is tremendous. You can reach new audiences you might not have encountered. Build your credibility. Take time to articulate your ideas in a longer format. And public speaking opportunities often give you the chance to meet other influencers and cool people, as well as learn a bit more about yourself by seeing how you communicate differently in various settings. Take the first opportunity you can get. It’s a great experience.
Some people have to write out a script and memorize it word for word before they’ll feel comfortable up on the stage or at the podium. Some people practice with their friends. Others prefer to improvise. Me? Well, my preparation is a little unconventional. It works for me, but I’m not sure it would work for everyone. Whatever. You asked.
Eight minutes before I take the stage, I’m doing my everyday stuff. I’m checking email. I’m joking with a friend. You’d never know I’m about to give a talk. I find that continuing my routine activities helps keep me calm.
Six minutes before showtime, I get into a weird place. I become extremely focused, like a boxer about to hit the ring. But I don’t review any notes. I don’t frantically start rattling through the speech to make sure I know it by heart. Those last-minute tendencies people have to want to fix something or change something can be really destructive. The day you find yourself in this moment, have confidence in yourself and go with your plan. You’ve worked hard for this. You’re ready.
Then, right before I go out onstage, I think about punching every audience member directly in the mouth.
Though not literally, of course. I don’t want to inflict harm on anyone. But when I’m onstage, I’m hyperfocused on bringing my audience value and so I’m in a sort of aggressive attack mode. I know it sounds strange, but I feel a weird mix of love and aggression for the people in the seats, because on one hand I’m so grateful for their presence and their support and interest, yet I’m also determined to send them away with a powerful message ringing in their ears. I’m like a boxer in a crazy zone before the fight.
Except unlike a boxer, I can’t physically grab people’s attention. I have to demand their attention with my voice, and convey my story in a way that keeps them rapt. Here is where showing your emotion is a good thing. Go ahead and get excited, or pissed, or frustrated. Show the audience how you feel about your topic. People respond to honesty and emotion. You’ll look strong and convincing. Most important, you’ll be almost impossible to forget.
So that’s how to prepare for an important talk. Trust me, the first one is the easiest one you’ll ever do. Know why? Because you’re only as good as your last talk. You’ve got nowhere to go but up. The second you take that stage, you’re wiping the slate clean and reaffixing your brand in people’s hearts and minds. Treat each event as your last at bat, and make it an amazing one.
imageHow do you get away with so many f-bombs onstage?
I think the answer is twofold. First, I mean it. I’m not just throwing curse words out there to shock you, I’m really feeling each and every one. It’s not a tactic, I’m just in the zone when I’m up on the stage. As I mentioned earlier, as a kid I idolized Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, and Eddie Murphy, and their influence translated directly into the way I deliver keynotes. But although there is a little bit of a stand-up quality to my speeches, I’m not acting up there. That Jersey boy is all me, and I think even when they’re a bit taken aback by my penchant for profanity, most people in my audience respect my authenticity.
Second, I get away with dropping f-bombs because I just don’t fu@king care if I catch flak for it. In fact, I use the f-bomb all the time to vet people with whom I do business. How you react to me tells me a whole lot about you. If you’re operating at such a micro level you can’t get beyond my language to hear the bigger message I’m trying to communicate to you, you’re just not someone I want to do business with or take on as a client. You’re never judging me half as much as I’m judging you.
imageAs a speaker, you rarely use filler words and you hardly ever lose your train of thought onstage, or in front of the camera. Can you provide insight into how you’ve nurtured your public speaking chops?
I’ve had a lot of practice since the first time I hit the stage in 2006, and here is the biggest secret I have learned for a flawless presentation: Talk about what you know. Don’t let people suck you into a debate about a topic in which you’re neither interested nor well versed. For example, I try not to answer questions about foreign policy or currency like Bitcoin. The only reason my opinion matters about anything is that I am a practitioner and have grounded my execution in strong research and experience. I’m not providing value if I start spouting opinions based on nothing more than a few clickbait headlines. I stay in my lanes of expertise where I spend my time honing my craft. If you’re comfortable with your subject matter and speaking from the heart and from experience, you’ll always sound like a pro.
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