Last week, I hit a milestone. As a motivational speaker, I performed for an audience of more than 1500. As a keynoter, this is my largest audience to date.  Until now most of my speaking engagements have been to audiences more the size of 500.

For me, this was a goal (to perform on a bigger stage and work with a bigger audience), and while I didn’t realize it at the time, an opportunity to really build my confidence.  For more than a year I’ve wanted to push myself and my career to another level, and this was just the chance I had been waiting for.

I was hired to be the opening keynote speaker; hired to kick off this four-day event. The meeting planner  who booked me for the job was clear about what he wanted. Strong content, not fluff; the CEO had made it clear he wanted to see his entire team take action on what I presented, and at the same time he wanted it to be fun. He expected me to be highly engaging, funny and inspirational.  Piece of cake, right?

So you can understand, I was nervous. That is a lot to deliver and make happen in just one short hour. Not to mention keeping 1500 people entertained, engaged, laughing and learning.  So I will admit, I was more like scared than nervous.  I mean, who wouldn’t be? I was clearly outside of my comfort zone, and clearly taking on a role where a lot of people were counting on me to deliver at a very high level.

The moment I secured the job, the voices in my head started. You know those voices, the ones that question your decisions, bring up your short comings, and those voices that create scenarios of “what ifs” that are never positive.  The moment the contract was signed, the volume seemed to increase.

But it was too late — I was out there — I was committed. I had to deliver. Besides, I knew this was a turning point, a milestone I really wanted to reach.

The only sure way to deliver was to build my confidence.  So what was my plan? How was I going to move from nervous and scared to a speaker who was ready to deliver? How was I going to build my confidence?

  1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare Again – If you want to build your confidence there is no magic bullet, no easy answer. You have to do the work. While I only had a month from the time I signed the contract to delivery, I made use of my time. I scheduled my research time, my writing time, my practicing time, and set a schedule of what I wanted to achieve each week.  I committed to reaching my goals each week, and no matter what else came up in my calendar, doing this work took priority.
  2. Call In Reinforcements – Reach out to people you know support and believe in you. I contacted those with experience for advice, those who are some of the best motivators I know for pep talks, and made sure I shared my opportunity with those in my life who believe in me and motivate me. All naysayers were off the list and interaction with them was slim to none.
  3. Visualize – May sound silly, but taking the time to visualize what you want to happen and seeing yourself receive everything you want is key to building your confidence. I visualized this talk so many times — what I would say, how people would interact, the group laughing, and of course the CEO being overly pleased with the outcome.
  4. Rationalize – Lastly, you need to ask yourself if what you are so worried about is even real. I mean those “what ifs” in your head — what are the chances they are going to come true? If they did, at the end of the day does it really matter? When I really thought about it, I knew I was ready. I had spoken to audiences over a thousand times, and had not had one time where any of my worst fears were realized. I was not going to forget my speech, or say anything that would fall flat. When I really thought about it, this opportunity appeared because I was ready; I had done the work.

Well, as you can imagine, all came out great. I took the stage feeling strong and ready! The audience was fantastic. They laughed, they engaged, they were so appreciative of the message and the delivery. And the CEO? Said I hit a 10 out of a 10!  Yes, I built my confidence.