I hate uncertainty.
I can’t stand living in a state of flux, not knowing exactly what’s going to happen next.
It’s why I won’t do the bungee trampoline thing (that even my 4-year-old will do) or ride amusement park rides with sheer drops.
That moment of wondering “when is the floor going to drop out from under me?” makes me nauseous.
Most of my “I Hate Speaking” clients feel the same way.
When discussing the fear and anxiety that assails them any time they even think about talking in front of small to large groups, these clients express worries about all the unknowns.
Strangely, though, these speaking unknowns never bother me. I learned to manage those particular uncertainties many years ago.
I love speaking. Learn to own speaking uncertainty and you will too! Or … at least you won’t hate it anymore.
It’s Not Just You
When facing uncertainty, it helps to remember that everyone is in a similar boat.
Your audience will be even more uncertain than you. They have no control over what is going to happen. They have no idea what you are going to say or do. They will be waiting on you. Looking to you to take control.
If you focus on guiding the audience through their uncertainty, managing your own will be much easier.
Control the Controllable
Own uncertainty by preparing for things that are under your control.
You control your content (what you are going to say).
You control your delivery (how you are going to say it).
You control your image (how you are going to look).
You control how much you practice.
You control how much you care about connecting with the audience.
If you master the things under your control, the things you can’t control will seem far less daunting.
Plan for the Predictable
Some uncertainties don’t have to be uncertain.
Mentally rehearse your presentation and take stock of all the equipment and support you’ll need. Make arrangements with event organizers or venue staff to have those things on hand. Take back-ups for essential items whenever possible. I guarantee the whiteboard markers will run dry in the midst of your presentation, so carry extra!
Visit the site before the presentation (even 15 minutes before) to identify potential audio/visual problems and to gain a sense of familiarity and comfort with the space.
Have a Plan B for when the technology inevitably fails you. Think about what you’ll do when the laptop won’t boot up, the slides won’t display, and the microphone won’t work.
Knowing that you can get through a presentation in the face of missing necessities, weird room issues, and technological melt-down helps ease many speaking uncertainties.
Uncertainty is Still Certain
No matter how much you focus on taking care of your audience … no matter how much you control the controllable … no matter how much you plan for the predicatable … something unexpected will happen.
Uncertainty is the one thing that is absolutely certain.
Prepare yourself for the reality that not everything will not go according to plan. Cleanse yourself of the need to have things (including you) be perfect and flawless.
Audiences don’t need you to be perfect. They need you to connect and communicate effectively. If you acknowledge this, uncertainty will never get the best of you.
Finally — and I know this is tough for anyone who hates uncertainty as much as I do! — try to see uncertainty as something to be embraced rather than feared.
The uncertainty of live events is exactly what makes them exhilarating and exciting! Who knows what might happen?!?!
A malfunctioning computer or busted microphone may remove unnecessary obstacles between you and your audience. A lackluster response may give you the courage you need to stop playing it safe. An unexpected question may unearth even stronger content than you were planning to present.
Uncertainty provides opportunity for improvement and results beyond those you had imagined.
I love that! And so will you!
What are your tips for owning uncertainty? Share them in the comments section below!