I have had the pleasure of being a public performer for 22 years, as a gymnast, a classically trained singer, a flash mob performer and, more recently, a speaker on legal topics. Despite all of my experience, I still get nervous. Before most performances you will find me pacing backstage asking myself, “Why is this fun for me?”
The Advice That Changed Everything
My nerves used to get to me. Sometimes I would get so nervous that I would shake, and I would be so worried about being nervous that it would hurt my performance. And then I got the advice that changed everything. I was at a student singing recital at Oregon State University when one of my classmates told me, “Remember, everyone wants you to do well.”
That advice changed my life and the way I approached performing. It completely shifted my focus away from how nervous I was to putting on a good show for the audience. It became all about my audience and not about how I felt standing in front of them. That advice made me realize the audience is there for an experience, and it’s my job to provide it.
These days, I still get nervous before taking the stage, no matter if I’m performing for a full house or only a few people. I still sweat like crazy and worry that I’m going to forget what I want to say. But now, being nervous is not an excuse for doing a bad job. I try to focus on speaking slowly and keeping my message concise and entertaining so the audience will remember it.
As a legal public speaker, I speak mostly to laypersons who are artists, bloggers and businesspeople about intellectual property and Internet law issues. My audience expects me to be entertaining and to provide useful knowledge, and that’s what I try to deliver. When I step on stage, I don’t take my fears with me. I focus on making sure my audience gets what they need and everything else seems to fall into place.
Ruth Carter is an Arizona lawyer with a virtual practice, The Carter Law Firm, focusing on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. A 2011 law graduate, Ruth is co-founder of Improv Arizona and she blogs weekly at UndeniableRuth.com.
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