The best speakers make the work of presenting in public look deceptively easy: develop your talk, walk on stage, and speak. While I work with my clients on a regular basis to help them become the best presenters they can be, it was not until a recent trip that I was reminded that there are times when the challenges of public speaking require business leaders to stretch themselves, practice new skills and sometimes take a leap of faith.
I was on the island of Hawaii when I had this revelation. I found myself getting a chance to check “zip-lining” off my bucket list. The idea of soaring through a Hawaiian rain forest, traveling at 45 miles per hour seemed invigorating. What an adventure!
Naively, I envisioned my role in this as little more than sitting and zipping. Seems simple enough, right? Not true! I had to learn and apply new skills, the most important one being how to slow down. It would appear to be simple, but not so, watch the video and see!
As I travel to the end of the line you will see my right hand reach out to the cable and perform what is known as a “burrito” move. I cup my hand around the cable and apply pressure to slow down. However, this was more art than science. If I slowed too much, I wouldn’t reach the platform. Not enough and I would get whiplash as the tour guide pulled the emergency brake to stop me from hitting the tree. Talk about high stakes AND being out of my comfort zone!
Why am I sharing this? Remembering this experience, I found myself thinking about how my clients prepare for a high stakes presentation. While they may wish they could just “do it and be done,” I ask them to stretch themselves, get out of their comfort zone, try something new and to trust that I won’t let them crash.
My zip-line adventure was a good reminder of how deceptively easy an accomplished presenter can make public speaking seem. It takes courage and energy to face the kind of risk that many of my clients take when they step up to speak. Standing in front of a crowd with confidence and knowing you can do it does not come without some trepidation…but know that with practice and good-old guts you can soar!