A good friend and a remarkable person, Ole Wiik, told me his motto earlier this year:
“Practice what you want to get good at.”
I used to be terrible at talking in front of another person, let alone a crowd of people. Through the communication training in Scientology, I managed to get to the point where I was a successful radio show host. But I didn’t want to stop there. Even though the radio show made history in Norway, I wanted to also get good as a public speaker. I went to several of Mark Shreffler’s seminars and saw what a really good public speaker could be like.
But it wasn’t until I actually started doing it, training on it every week that I started to get a hang of it. In the recruitment company I ran in the 90’s, we decided I would give a seminar on how to hire people once per week.
Early on I decided to not use any aids. No slides. No script. No notes. This was a very conscious decision. I wanted to be able to speak straight off the cuff. Totally improvised – in order to tailor the message to the needs of the audience. That way I never had to worry about a computer crash, loosing the script or notes, or that the audience wanting something other than what I had prepared.
Lack of preparation was the key. Winging it. First with a lot of personal uncertainty. Like Bambi on the ice. I screwed up, made a fool out of myself. Sometimes mumbling, more often cracking a bad joke. Loosing my train of thought trying to weave a thread with no yarn.
Slowly but surely it started to pay off. The jokes got better, my focus went from how I was doing to what value the audience got, and the audience started recommending the weekly seminars.
After a couple of years I felt I could do this in my sleep. Time for new challenges. I started saying “Yes!” to any invitation to talk in front of people. Seminars on other subjects like astrophysics, communication, leadership, sex, IT and whatever else people wanted me to speak about, talks at weddings, toastmaster, etc. Throwing myself in at the deep end. Much like when I was 10 and my younger friend got me travelling a lift for 13 hours to rid me of my fear of elevators.
It culminated a few years ago when I was invited to hold a talk to some 300 students at a university. I decided not to have clue about what I would say until I walked onto the stage. I ended up doing a workshop on how to pick up girls, or boys.
It doesn’t matter what you want to get good at. Training is the key.
When people ask me what to do to become a blogger or writer, I simply tell them to start. By just doing it, winging it, you will get better at it. How good you will become boils down to your desire to get good and your willingness to learn and change along the way.
While this blog post is meant for a friend staying at home with a quarrelsome stomach, I hope it can inspire others to get going in a direction they want to master.