The challenge in speaking about yourself

In my workshop I always start with a first assignment: “a short presentation about yourself”. Just a little chat about who you are, what you do/want in life and what it is that brought you to the workshop. People tend to find this horrible! Why? Because speaking about yourself just is! Hmm… I find that interesting.

This week a friend told me she was asked to speak at a conference about her experiences in leadership. She was seen as ‘a reference’ for this audience, and they asked her to share her insights. She worried: “am I really an reference? Am I a good example? What do I tell these people?”

Today I spoke to a client who was asked to talk about his wonderful career. Again, the organization that asked him to thought highly of him and was sure he would inspire everyone in the audience. He wondered wether his story was interesting enough.

As soon as we are asked to talk about ourselves we somehow start to doubt whether we have the right to do so. Am I interesting enough? Will people believe me? Will they approve of what I have to say? This is a scary mindset. It triggers a defensive speech. Or may even lead to a ‘look how great I am’-speech. Arrogance often come from overcompensating one’s insecurity.

Just for a moment, put yourself on a chair in the audience. If you came to hear this speech, what would you want to hear? A long CV of all the things the speaker has done? People are egocentric. They only wonder about what’s in it for them. Well… if you would sit on that chair in that audience, what would like to learn from? I’ll give you some ideas: ‘What choices did you make?’ that the audience could learn from, ‘Why did you chose them?’ so that the audience can find similarities, ‘What mistakes did you make?’ that the audience could try to avoid, ‘What was you best experience’ creating new horizons for the audience, ‘What was your worst experience’ telling the audience what they should prepare for.

If you build your speech around these questions, you will find that it will be an extremely personal speech. And people will love it. Fill it with relevant examples. And I assure you, your audience will hang on every word you say!

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