How to Nail Appearances on National Media
On speaking on television:
While, yes, certainly when you’re on TV, there are millions of people looking at you, but in that moment you’re really having a conversation with just that one host, or if there are two people, the two people that are interviewing you. So you’re really having a conversation with just those two people.
You forget about the fact that you are being broadcast to millions of people. So I think it’s a part of being at ease and then also just being fully present to the fact of where you are in the conversation that you’re having with the people that you’re having. What’s your role in that conversation, and what’s the message that you want to get across? What’s the takeaway that you want people to have?
On being nervous:
I am nervous on all of them, but I’ll tell you that while I am nervous on all of them, as soon as I open my mouth, the nervousness goes away. But there is never a time—I don’t care, I’ve been doing television now since the late ‘90s. There is never a time that I don’t sit in that seat and they’re miking me up and I’m not a little bit nervous. But as soon as I open my mouth, it goes away.
The quote came from a dive master when I was doing my check out dives. She said to me that the day that I get on a boat and I am not nervous is the day that I should not dive. I just apply that to actually a lot of different things, but especially when it comes to public speaking. If you’re not nervous, to me that means that you’ve taken a little bit for granted, whether it’s you’ve taken the opportunity for granted, you’ve taken the message for granted, or you’ve taken the audience for granted.
So I say use the nervousness and just let it be a natural part of your process. That means that you are excited about what you are about to do. When you’re not nervous, that means it might be time to re-evaluate if you’re still into it.
I always make sure that I at least have three to five talking points and that I have some sort of data to kind of connect back to those three to five talking points, especially because when you are on air, and especially when it’s live, you have no idea, number one, what they’re going to ask you. Number two, you might have in your head prepared your notes or your data in a particular order, and the way in which they ask the questions might not be the way in which you’ve kind of memorized.
So it’s also about having a little bit of flexibility and fluidity to figure out, “Okay, I’ve thought of this, but I actually need to pull this.” So just having that dexterity, if you will.
The discipline of never opening my mouth without having practiced for that moment is just something that I carry through. I think another thing kind of related to that is making sure that, especially when you’re doing non-TV events and you’re on stage, making sure that you have the commitment to bring 110% of yourself, whether there are two people in that audience or there are 200 or 2,000.
It is your responsibility to make sure that whomever is in that audience walks away with something. You can’t control what they walk away with, but that you give them enough to walk away with something.
On equal effort:
I think for me the big thing about that is it reminds you to keep your ego in check, because your ego can get so caught up in the numbers. You can get so caught up in, “Well, I was on a stage, and I talked to 1,000 people,” because people will respond to that a lot differently than if you say, “I was on stage and there were 20 people in the audience.”
I get why you might be more excited about the 1,000 and less excited about the 20, but that’s not why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you are, again, it’s just like if you’re showing up nervous, it means that you might need to check why you’re doing what you’re doing.
On body language:
Another thing I would highly recommend, especially when you’re speaking from stage, is don’t put too much into body language, not necessarily your body language, but into reading other people’s body language.
I remember speaking at an event, and thinking that I was just not connecting to this guy at all, like crossed arms, not really giving me any eye contact. Of course, that’s the person I kept focusing on, right, because you want to win them over. But fast forward, I get a call two months later, and they’re like, “I got your name from someone who got your name from someone who saw you speak at X.”
The school took care of my transportation. But there was a personal check from him, and it was three figures. In it, he said, “I hope you buy yourself something special.” I still have that letter. It’s just a wonderful reminder of you really have to be careful about how you are judging not only who is in the room, but what you’re taking away in terms of their body language.
In my pricing proposal, I never just include my typically 90-minute speaking engagement. I always include something that happens in advance of, so some sort of pre-work, if you will, and then a follow up. The reason that I do that, though, is more philosophically, and it just happens that it works out, because it’s a good negotiation tool or tactic.
But I do it, because if you think of the conferences that you’ve attended or the workshop sessions that you’ve attended, and you leave those, and you’re all amped, and you have every intention of implementing what you took away from that, a day passes, a week passes, and a month passes, and you haven’t done it, and any sort of follow up that you get is typically to get feedback or to sell you something.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with doing either of those things, but I sat back and I thought, well, typically, none of us learn from just having one moment of exposure to something. It’s the iteration of it. I decided that for me I want to do something that gets people in the right headset for the conversation I’m going to have with them.
Whether they do it or not is not my—I can’t control that. But I’ve offered I to you, so this is how you get ready for our session. This is what we do while we’re in the session, and here’s how we can continue the conversation to help you make sure that you implement what you said you were going to implement.
I offer those three touch points, if you will, as a part of my pricing package.
It’s just really helpful in terms of I think honoring the different ways in which we learn and how we learn and how that learning needs to be reinforced. But then it also helps you when it’s time to negotiate. You don’t have to feel like you’re giving up so much, because you’re just taking one aspect of the package off the table.
Developing a speaking career:
I think that the other thing that you always have to keep in mind when you’re looking at developing your speaking as a career is you need to be strategic about the things that you do for, quote, unquote, “free,” and the things that you do for fee. Sometimes, ironically enough, the bigger the speaking engagement in terms of the platform, the lower negotiating room you have for your speaker’s fee.
But at all times, I would say a couple of things. If you say yes to those, you need to make sure that you’re really getting something of value out of it in terms of exposure and in terms of heightened credibility, if you will. Then the other thing is don’t ever pay for your own traveling expenses. If you give up the speaker’s fee, and even if you don’t give up the speaker’s fee, they should always underwrite your traveling expenses.
What does it mean to speak like a pro?
I think it is being intentional, being contemplative, and being thorough, and at all times showing up and giving your best. That doesn’t mean that it will go perfect. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have any audio glitches. But even with all of that, you just follow through and you do what you said you were going to show up and do. Speaking like a pro really means showing up as best as you can, delivering as best as you can, and realizing that the best today might be different than the best tomorrow, and that, too, is okay.
Whatever work you need to do to like yourself, to love yourself, do that, because the more you show up more comfortable in your own skin, that’s just going to exude, and it’s just going to automatically be on display for people to see.
Another thing that would be really good is whatever your topic is, whatever your core message is, whatever the latest trends that are going on in that area, make sure that you are on top of it, even if it takes a contrarian viewpoint than the one that you stand for. Then you can use that in your speaking engagements in terms of saying, “This is where I stand, but this is where other people stand.” A lot of times, going left when everybody else is going right is a beautiful thing.
The other one would be to allow silence. I think, especially when you’re on television, it’s really, really tempting when you have completed answering a question to want to continue going further. The most powerful thing you can do is to complete the sentence and shut up.
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