What comes easily to me is writing.
What doesn’t come easily is speaking.
I was brought up in a cult from which I escaped shortly after starting my business. The mindset I was forced into, all my life growing up, didn’t keep me back from much — except public speaking. (Life in a cult, my escape, and how I grew a successful agency from nothing is all part of a memoir I started writing in 2017. It will be finished this year. Want to hear about it? Click here.)
I’ve turned down several organic invitations to speak on stage in the past, even though I have managed to get comfortable with video.
So, this one thing held me back — until last week.
I broke through one of the last and biggest barriers standing in my way.
Right before Christmas of last year, I decided to accept an invitation to speak as the guest of honor at Jessica Campos’ (Marketing for Greatness) mastermind luncheon right here in Austin, Texas on January 9th, 2019. It was a big moment for me. Just saying yes was something I never would have done in all my seven years of entrepreneurship. That “yes” was a defining moment.
Jessica is a genius marketer and a good friend of mine here in Austin that I respect a lot. I met her through her local networking events and her Facebook group for Austin entrepreneurs. Saying yes to her was a no-brainer. It made me feel more comfortable speaking at her venue because I already knew and liked her.
She let me pick the topic, and so I picked the one I love the most: profitable content.
I collected my 6-step framework to profitable content which I’ve developed 100% from scratch, after learning and implementing content marketing for the past seven years and finally getting to a place of success after a lot of trial and error. I’ve taught this framework online, by invitation, for Stukent and other publications. It’s also the base of the course and book I built across all of 2017.
So I took my favorite topic ever — and one of the most original concepts I’ve ever developed — and turned it into a new session geared for entrepreneurs at a “starting point” level for Jessica’s lunch. When I got up to speak, not only did I feel 1000% comfortable with my topic, but I also found myself thoroughly enjoying sharing it to a live audience.
Jessica told me something that stuck: “I think webinars are harder. If you did that, you can speak live. The energy of a real, in-person audience around you helps a lot.” She was right!
Read and watch @JuliaEMcCoy's first-ever live talk given in Austin, Texas on how to build profitable #contentmarketing. Click To Tweet
I Gave My First Live Talk on Profitable Content in Austin, Texas. Here’s How It Went
If a picture speaks a thousand words, a video speaks a million words — right?
My talented friend and videographer, Joel Valle, recorded my session for my YouTube channel as I spoke.
Without further ado, here it is. It’s up to you how well you think I did! Click to pop open in a new window and watch on YouTube. I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Psst… I’d be honored if you would subscribe to my YouTube channel. (It will be worth your time: I’m committed to a weekly video every Monday featuring practical advice on a hot content topic in my #ContentMarketingMemos.)
3 Speaking Tips that WORKED for Me
If you’re thinking of approaching your first speaking gig, here are the speaking tips that worked for me the most. I thought this would be useful to add to today’s recap.
1. You Don’t Have to Be an Extrovert to Speak (In Fact, Being an Introvert or Writer Can Help You Deliver an Impactful Message)
First, despite all my fears, there was a small spark in my heart that told me I should try speaking. Each of my family members has spoken publicly or are comfortable with it. And by all — I mean all! My father, mother, aunt, uncle! The internal spark of desiring to speak grew when I listened internally, focused in on quiet time, meditated, and prayed.
I’ve also talked to many live speakers across the years, down to walking the floors of Content Marketing World in 2018 and finding the keynote speakers to ask them for their tips.
(Lee Odden told me at karaoke night that he’s spoken on more than 200 stages, is a MAJOR introvert, and is still nervous about it and doesn’t love speaking! Even though he kills it and is in demand! Ann Handley, the winner of the first Hero Award, CMI’s Hall of Fame Award, told me she’d paced her hotel room in solace all day, practicing the speech she was giving on stage that evening. And she’s also given so many speeches.)
Everything I was told convinced me of something. Being an introvert did not discount my chances of speaking. I was excited to learn that possibly, being an introvert could even equate to “awesome speaker.” Could it be?!
In a pre-Write Podcast conversation, Brian Fanzo told me a story about award-winning keynote speaker Scott Stratten. Brian looks up to Scott as a speaker so much, and Scott is a major introvert. Scott won’t go out for drinks with Brian after killing it on stage because he’d rather decompress in his hotel room.
Brian also told me something else: Because I’m a good writer, I possibly have an advantage over many other average speakers. I can easily create content that rocks, and he said that’s the struggle for many speakers. Chris Strub has also encouraged me to stop letting the “introvert” perspective limit me. He’s even included me on his list of 50 women speakers, which I was very honored about.
Over time, I’ve had countless people tell me that being an introvert shouldn’t hold me back.1. You Don't Have to Be an Extrovert to Speak - In Fact, Being an Introvert or Writer Can Help You Deliver an Impactful Message and 2 other tips on #publicspeaking from @JuliaEMcCoy #contentmarketing Click To Tweet
2. Practice, Practice, Practice Makes a Perfect Presentation
Nadya Khoja, Head of Marketing at Venngage, gave me this tip. Before she gave her first presentation (and she’s killing it now on stage), she practiced her slides at home 50 times.
I realized something while considering speaking. Everything I’ve done, from launching my agency, getting on Facebook Live, creating and launching my first course, writing emails that work, creating and publishing good blogs, you name it — all became better with practice.
And so I took Nadya’s tip to heart. I decided I’d practice at home till I knew this presentation better than myself.
I already knew the 6-step framework — for Pete’s sake, I’d developed it 100% from scratch — but for this presentation, I wanted to know in and out. Not that I memorized every word. And that’s important: I think a good presentation is natural, and memorizing every word would make it stuffy.
To keep the flow natural, I made sure I memorized only the concepts and the first few sentences. (Keith Shannon, college professor and speaker extraordinaire, gave me this tip: “Know your opener COLD.” I took that advice to heart.)
I gave this presentation at home so many times, here’s what happened.
- My 4-year-old could say the first three sentences of my talk all by herself without prompting.
- My husband got so tired of me giving him the speech that he started hating hearing it and would look over at me with a painful sigh when I started saying it again. (I expected that, though.)
- I could whip out the first three sentences and the concepts anywhere on the spot, down to saying it randomly to a vet care tech as we took our pet in for shots. (I bet they probably thought I was the one needing medical care, at that point.)
3. Find Your Rhythm
This sums up several tips I was given that all worked. A few were:
- Look at the back of the room, the floor, or your slides when losing breath or confidence. This will reset your brain and let you look back out at the audience confidently. Good tip!
- Sweep your glances across the audience’s faces. My friend Dori gave me this tip, and it worked very well for me.
- Look at just a few people that you have a personal connection with if you feel your confidence is going down.
I didn’t have to rely on these tips like a crutch since I didn’t really lose my pace at any point, but I did find them helpful. I would add:
- Find your natural rhythm. This is different for everyone!
- Don’t be afraid to take up space. Stretch your arms, your body. This is your time, and it’s your space. Be you!
- Strike natural and comfortable poses. I found a comfortable pose and found my mind eased up with my pose. I leaned on the podium and kicked up my heels for Q&A time.
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing. This helped me probably the most. I learned diaphragmatic breathing from my mother, who was a trained opera singer. I remembered her old tips. You want to activate the muscle between your stomach and chest. Your stomach should deflate when breathing out, and you should feel the strength in your voice if you do it right. This gives you all the breath you need! I found a tip on a blog from a speaking coach: 10, 10, 10. Breathe in for 10, filling up your stomach, then your chest: Hold for 10, and breathe out for 10. This will force you to start breathing right and you’ll use the right muscle when speaking. I started practicing this for weeks before my speech. By the time I went up to speak, I was in diaphragmatic breathing rhythm.
- Believe, relax, and focus. Faith, prayer, and meditation were a big part of my preparation process. I tried to stay off social media and avoided too much noise and interruption as I focused in and got ready. That’s hard because I run an agency, but I made it happen.
Slides: Julia’s Mastermind Guest Session, the 6-Step Framework to Profitable Content (20-Minute Live Talk)
Don’t forget to grab your copy of my slides!
And, you already know — but I’d absolutely love to hear what you think of my first-ever speech in the comments! 😊