Before I go in front of an audience to make a presentation, I repeat my favorite quote in my head over and over. In fact, it’s what is on my laptop that I see that the audience doesn’t. It’s a quote by Henry David Thoreau.
“Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows”
What this quote offers me is a reminder to stay real. Stay authentic. To stay as near as possible to the part of myself in which my life flows and is authentic.
I don’t know about you but when I get nervous some strange guy shows up. It’s me but it’s not “me”. Do you know what I mean? Do you know this experience? The guy that shows up is stiff, formal and not very warm. Probably a bit stand-offish. Not how I think of myself and certainly not engaging for an audience. I don’t think anyone wins when this guy shows up and as a public speaker, I see it as my responsibility to deliver in a way that the audience benefits. Public speaking to me is completely not about me.
Yet when we most of us get nervous we typically get focused on ourselves. Our nerves, whether we’re going to be “perfect” enough and if we’re going to vomit. This is the roots of stage fright. The disconnect between who we really are and this stranger we have just become because of nerves.
So the goal is to be ourselves. To dwell as near as possible to the channel in which our life flows. It’s where we’re real.
Before I ever gave my first live presentation I sought out support from an acting coach. I made it very clear I wasn’t interested in learning “an act”. What I wanted was to learn how to deal with the nerves so my true self showed up. It seemed to me that this must be something performers figured out. If I couldn’t be myself on stage I wasn’t interested in doing it.
While the acting coach and I did many different acting exercises and improv which are all excellent training for public speaking, the biggest take away for me was learning to stay as close to my truth as possible. And the truth is I have something I want to give to others more than I am worried about being perfect. That’s where my life flows.
I wanted to share both the beauty of this quote by Thoreau and the idea of grounding yourself with whatever you need to “dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows”. Your truth. It’s a wonderful place to reside. It’s peaceful there.