How I became a better speaker

It all starts with food poisoning. A few years ago I was leading a workshop on Marketing Your Strengths during a larger event in New York City. Selling yourself and your business can be intimidating, as if you have to be Tony Robbins to do it well. I help entrepreneurs experience how natural marketing can feel if you focus on what you love about what you do.

A friend lent me his apartment to stay the night before so I took advantage by arriving early and exploring all afternoon, including popping into a market in Chinatown for Vietnamese coffee beans to take home and a banh mi sandwich for dinner.

Suffice it to say that I have never eaten one of those sandwiches again. The name alone makes me queasy.

The next morning after barely any sleep and tummy rumbles that warned against breakfast, I made my way to the event. The attendees filed in, happy and open-hearted for the start of their day, while I took a seat in the corner, green and slowly sipping water. I had about an hour before going on and I needed all sixty minutes.

That's when a woman approached, "I just had to come over and introduce myself, because I love your energy."

If I wasn't already at the back of the room I would have turned around to see if she was talking to someone else. She didn't know who I was, or that I would lead an activity later. She was reacting I was dumbfounded. But I wasn't doing anything, I said to myself after she had returned to the other side of the room. Up until her hello I was convinced I had to do something, be outgoing in order to be noticed.

Because usually that's what I do in social situations and during speeches: muster up every extroverted cell in my introverted body and propel them out at people. I wonder if audiences can tell how hard I'm working, projecting my words into the rafters, bouncing on my toes, face flushed and blood pressure rising.

Here was proof I could be myself.

I didn't have the energy to be anyone else that day. Food poisoning was just what I needed to slow down and experience what people really see in me and to know that it's more than enough. I return to this story often and pass it along now in case you need the reminder. You are attractive, compelling, lovely when you're being yourself. Even in the back of the room hiding in a corner.

Sure you can move into the middle of the room and say something witty or insightful. But you don't have to. We see you already, and like what we see.

My workshops, even coaching clients over the phone, have changed since "the food poisoning incident." I will catch myself projecting now and then, but mostly I'm a better speaker because I do a lot more smiling, listening. My voice is softer. It is SO MUCH EASIER. My blood pressure thanks me.

A side benefit: it also allows people to be themselves too. When I tell audiences I'm an introvert, I often hear sighs of relief. They get to be introverts too, and still be speakers, leaders and the faces of their businesses.

How can you, today, this moment, be more fully yourself?