Unlock the speaker in you: How reluctant speakers hide and some ideas on how to step out

Published on 7 August 2019

Are you avoiding your next speaking opportunity? All the time? And do you find yourself walking away from speaking opportunities when you know you should be taking them? 

John Scarrott is a trainer and coach working with Association professionals on how they approach speaking engagements. Here’s his take on what might be keeping you where you are, and how you can break develop the confidence to break free, go out and find the speaker opportunities to make a difference to your Association.

There are more and more events out there. And more and more speaking opportunities. All good you might think. Except that speakers with real potential are in hiding. They’re locking themselves away. Ask any conference organiser and they’ll say they could do with a deeper pool of speakers.

So what’s keeping speakers away? In essence it could boil down to how they think about speaking. Here are three of the thoughts that I’ve found coming from reluctant speakers. Together they form a ‘triple combination lock’ preventing action. Take a look and see if they apply to you:

  • “I’m modest about what I do. I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, or be the centre of attention. Similarly, I don’t like drawing attention to my own shortcomings either.” This rules out talking about either triumphs or disasters, which only leaves the ordinary, which...... 
  • “Other people wouldn't be interested in me. People already know what I know. In fact, they know more than me. I’m not extraordinary. I’ve not done anything amazing. I’m not worthy of standing up on stage and taking up people’s time” And in any event......
  • “I won't be good at speaking. Speaking well in public is a gift or talent. You either have it or you don’t, and I’m just one of those people who don't think they have the ability”.

That’s a degree of capture that Houdini would be proud of. Do you find yourself thinking any of these things? They’re all designed to protect you of course. Because speaking is a bit risky. So, this is about ‘you protecting you’. Except, life can often be dulled by not taking a risk or two. And with the right preparation and practise, your career, your organisation and your people’s development can really benefit from you working to loosen your thinking a bit.

If you’re sufficiently motivated to want to work on these locks, here’s how to get the barrels moving:

“I’m modest about what I do.” Your thoughts in this area may be founded on what you did or what you achieved. Switch to how or why. Your audience may well be more interested in how you achieved it. Or why it was necessary. They want to learn something they can take back and maybe use themselves. Ask yourself: “What did I learn?” When you start to work on that question, you become interested in your own journey. And when you’re interested in what you’re speaking about, guess what? You become interesting to others, which means you can start to address barrel number 2.

“Other people wouldn't be interested in me.” They already know this. How could they know what you know? Were they there doing what you were doing? Thinking what you were thinking? And even if they do know, so what? How many times do you hear someone say, “it’s such a relief to know I’m not on my own” after hearing a speaker? Or, “that’s like our situation but it’s different”. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to have had some experiences that are like your audience’s experiences.

Maybe barrel two is starting to move. But even if that’s the case you’ve still got the final one, which is, “even if I did have something to say, “I won’t be good at speaking”. I’d ruin it the minute I opened my mouth.” It might look to you as though every speaker you see was born on the stage. But come on. Really? Isn’t it more likely that they were motivated to learn how? What you don’t see when someone speaks is the work they put in. The preparation, the thought, the time that goes into creating that result. You just see the result. But results don’t just happen. Maybe some people start with a small advantage. But they can lose that without work. And if you don’t have that, you’ll make up for it if you apply yourself.

Just think of something you do well and ask yourself, was I born with that? Or did I learn, experiment and learn and move on and try again? This is what happened for me with speaking, running, writing, training, coaching and pretty much everything in my life and on an ongoing basis. If you’re not learning, you’re not really alive. So maybe it’s time to learn some new thinking and some new skills. Come on, it’s in you, you’ve got this.

For details of my forthcoming Masterclasses click here


John Scarrott
John Scarrott

Trainer and Coach, John Scarrott Training and Coaching

John Scarrott is a Trainer and Coach working with Association professionals on their approach to influential communication in areas such as selling, speaking and presenting and networking. A former Membership Director, he has over 20-years’ experience in these areas across the business to business publishing and not for profit sectors. He is Associate Certified Coach (ACC) Credentialed with the International Coach Federation and an international speaker working with Association professionals in UK, Europe, India and Australia. You can find out more about him at johnscarrott.com