Today I interview Craig Desorcy. Craig is a successful Toastmaster, performance coach, and the best-selling author of Starve Your Fear. Catch up with Craig at craigdesorcy.com
Full transcript is below the video.
Dave: Hi guys, it’s Dave Mac here from presentationblogger.com. Today, I’m with Craig Desorcy. Craig is the author of a book that’s been out since April called Starve Your Fear. How you going Craig?
Craig: Hey David, nice to have you. Congratulations on the baby! I reached out to you and I said, “Hey, why don’t we share some tips and tricks about public speaking and presenting.”
Dave: So, thank you very much for that. For everybody out there, Craig has a pretty impressive resume. Craig is a performance coach, he has written a book called Starve Your Fear which you can check out at starveyourfear.com, and he’s also a Toastmaster, husband, and father. I’d like to talk to you about your book. Can you tell us a little bit about Starve Your Fear?
Craig: Sure. So, I’ve worked with hundreds of people who want to build a business, overcome something in their lives, do better in their lives. With performance coaching, life coaching, you’re helping people improve, and over the years what I noticed is when you dig down deep, underneath the story the mind creates to justify why you’re not doing what you want to do with your life it always comes down to fear. So I said let me write a quick book on this subject so I can just give this to my clients so we don’t have to have the same conversations over and over again.
Craig: The brain, the 2 million year old brain, has a part that is responsible for the fear. It’s called the amygdale, and this part of our brain doesn’t want to get up and speak in public. This part of our brain wants to have sex, it wants to eat, it wants to fight, or it wants to flight. It has no interest in you doing well in life. It doesn’t care. It just wants to pass it’s DNA on and be done with this whole thing. So I wrote about that and I wrote a book about how to deal with that amygdala and how to manage fear, how to look at it. For example, when you get up in front of an audience to speak the amygdala will cause you to sweat and get chills, and it thinks it’s going to die. It thinks you’re going to die. It doesn’t understand anything other than that.
Craig: So, what adds to that fear, what amplifies that feeling is being unprepared, it’s not knowing your audience, it’s making the presentation about you. So, you’re there secretly to feed your ego and to feel great. To feel a strong sense of significance. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can get a strong sense of significance as a by-product of doing a good presentation. But if you’re showing up with a secret intent to feed your ego and to feel significant that’s going to amplify the fear. And also you’re not going to connect with the audience.
Craig: So when I spoke at Toastmasters you have to do all these speeches and you have to enter a competition. Whether you win or lose the competition doesn’t matter, you still get to do the next level and get your pin. Your official international Toastmasters’ pin. So, I went up and I spoke and I did every speech contest that I was supposed to enter and I won every contest. It’s not because I was a great speaker. What I was really good at was, when I got that scary feeling in my stomach, I just told myself this isn’t about us. I asked the audience a question. Every single presentation I opened with a question. The question was to get some interacting right away so it’s not me. All the attention isn’t on me.
Craig: So it took all that attention from me immediately, got people thinking about their own lives, which is what the presentation was about. So, if you let the fear win you’re screwed, baby.
Dave: So, I’ve got a couple of questions for you regarding Toastmasters. The first one is, why did you decide to get into Toastmasters? Why did you sign up?
Craig: Because I wrote a book, about 15 years ago, called Rags to Enrichment. A typical motivational, self-help book. And I thought, “I don’t have a problem getting up and speaking and being scared about it”, but I needed structure and some discipline. And I wanted to take the class for those reasons. I also wanted to be around other people who were growing and stretching. Toastmasters is like $27 a year or something. It’s ridiculously cheap. I thought, “What do successful people do?” If you study successful people, a lot of them went to Toastmasters. I thought that was a good place for me to start.
Dave: Okay. So, when you first got up at Toastmasters to make your first few speeches what was your feeling? Did you have that fear?
Craig: Of course. This is a biological reaction. This feeling is always going to be there. Dick Cavett, the National Speakers’ Association founder said, “The butterflies will always be there, but as you become a good speaker they’ll learn how to fly in formation.”
Dave: That’s a great way of looking at it.
Craig: So you have to address that feeling or frame. Dick Cavett’s frame was the butterflies are always going to be there you just learn to fly them in formation. Whatever frame you use, use something. But don’t act like that it’s not there or that you can bury it. It’s always going to be there. It’s a good feeling. You just need to look at the feeling as though “it’s keeping me sharp. It’s keeping me alert.” And sometimes, as a speaker, you can get up and say, “Hey. Have you ever had to stand in front of an audience like I’m standing in front of you and you get extremely nervous. Let me see people. Raise your hands. Okay. And for the people who didn’t raise their hands, I’m sure they lie about other things as well.”
Craig: “The fact is, we’re all human doing the best we can with what we have. And I’m here today to create some value for you because this isn’t about me, even though I’m the guy standing up here.” Now, as soon as you do that the fear goes away because you’re connecting with the audience and letting them know it’s not about you.
Dave: So, I like that kind of speech. I always find that saying that kind of thing humanizes you and it does create that connection with the audience.
Craig: You want to go for that right away and get the fear out of there. I wrote a book about public speaking and fear. I’ll dig it up on my computer and give you a copy.
Craig: Before your speech you can also go around and connect with people, joke with them, and say, “I’m the speaker today, do you want to trade places?”
Dave: One thing that helps me is to put myself in the position of the audience. The audience doesn’t want you to fail. The audience wants you to succeed because if you fail it’s more uncomfortable for the audience. When you recognize that it can help you deal with the fear a little bit more. It can help you walk in there and think, “Okay. They’re on my side. I can talk to them like a normal person they’re there for me.”
Craig: Yeah. And pay attention to the human ego. The human ego wants to act like it’s better than it is. It wants to be pretentious and it wants to protect it’s identity. And that gets people in trouble. They have to be an expert. No. You just have to know a little more about a specific subject than someone else. It doesn’t make you an expert it just makes you a cool guy who knows a little bit more and you’re here to share. That’s a lot of pressure. The ego will trick you. I was that guy. The guy at 22 years old speaking in front of a group of 80 people getting $500 an hour and acting like an asshole believing in my own bullshit that I know better than the people in front of me. It was a terrible experience for me because I could have done a much better job of serving the people. But I was young and we have to evolve and go through levels. And that’s why I bring up that it’s really not about us. We’re just a vehicle it’s not about us. Don’t make it about you. We’re not that special.
Dave: Do you think that having that ego at that younger age… You had to go through that? You had to go through that slap down and then you realized, “Okay, it’s not about me.”
Craig: And that’s why, if any of your listeners are at that stage in life, do not shame yourself. Do not hide. Embrace what you’re doing. Embrace that ego. Push it. Just run as fast as you can with it so you can evolve to a higher level. But don’t shame yourself and make yourself feel wrong for it because what you’ll do is split into a few different types of personalities and those personalities will be in an internal conflict with each other and this causes more mistakes. It causes more disconnects. Embrace where you are in your evolution.
Dave: That’s really good advice. Sorry, just to go back a little bit to something you said a little bit earlier. You talked about when you open a speech or a presentation you often ask a question to the audience.
Dave: How does that help you get through the introduction or the opening of your presentation? How does that help you with the fear aspect?
Craig: The most important thing it does for me is it takes the focus off me. The reason why the fear is strong is because the fear gets triggered and then that goes on internally. Then the social proof of the audience staring at you stacks that into focus and the fear becomes overwhelming, palm-sweating, underwear’s feeling like you pissed yourself but you didn’t. To answer the question, the benefit for me is to get the focus away. Right away. I don’t want the focus on me. I need that extra split-second to regroup and realise this is not about me, not about my fear.
Craig: Another thing you can do in your mind when you look at the audience, you can just say, “I don’t know better than any of these people. I love them. Love means not I wanna take them to a love hotel. It means I accept them for wherever they are on their path. I have not judgment in my heart for any of these people in the audience today. So the opening question is just to get the focus off me. And in your presentations everything is based on the pre-frames that you set beforehand. We can have another call to talk about pre-frames but based on how receptive they are to you, based on how they consume the information it’s all in the pre-frame. So the power of the pre-frame is humanising yourself, connecting with the audience, letting them know why we’re here today, letting them know what they can expect, and even saying this: if you need to go to the toilet I’m more than happy to stop right now for a 5 minute break to let you go because I don’t want this kind of pressure on you. Nobody’s going to go to the toilet, but they’re going to appreciate that I was thinking that far about them.
Dave: Yeah. Actually, that kind of thing makes me think of when you are talking to the audience that way it becomes much more of a conversation than just giving information.
Dave: And when you go more into that conversational style and get away from the lecturer information style, that’s another thing builds a connection with the audience.
Dave: Just saying something like, “Look if you want me to stop now so you can go to the toilet”, that can often get a bit of a laugh and a bit more of a connection. I think really good advice from you, Craig.
Craig: You want a rapport. Look, how can I influence you? When you are speaking to people, when you are presenting, you’re trying to influence them. You’re trying to get them to buy-in to some kind of information that’s going to help them. But, you’re not entitled to their buy-in. You have to earn that. You have to dive in to that. And how you do that is with massive amounts of rapport. The only way to get rapport is to let people know that their best interests you have at heart and your going to hold and protect them. You’re going to serve them the best way you can. If you show up like that, and it’s not easy, then things tend to work out. People want to talk to you afterwards. But when you show up as a presenter and you goal is just to present and get this information out; it’s like a teacher going in to a classroom and he doesn’t care about the feelings of the student because he has a job to do and he just has to get through. He’s in the wrong profession.
Dave: It just becomes checking boxes, then?
Craig: Yeah, he’s in the wrong profession. He should get out of that business. He doesn’t have any passion for it; he doesn’t respect his students. So, you want to connect with your audience and let them know that what’s most important is that we have a conversation today and I trust you and hopefully you trust me. We’re all going to be okay.
Dave: Yeah. Really, really good advice. I really like the idea that you don’t automatically have their buy-in just because you’re standing in front of them…
Craig: A lot of teachers and a lot of presenters think that they’re entitled to that. And they get off on that. They get significance from that. Now it’s all about the presenter. But you have to earn that.
Dave: Right! So if it’s all about the presenter there’s going to be a real issue, right? You’ve got the audience just sitting there looking at their watch, thinking when can I get out of this hell.
Craig: And so, in the pre-frame of your presentations you can even address that: “Look, I know some of you don’t want to be here, and I respect you. I’ve been in your position. I know what that feels like, it’s daunting. And you know what? I’m sorry, but here’s the deal: I came here to talk to you. I’m sure you’re going to find some value. All that I ask is for some courtesy and mutual respect to just be open. You don’t have to agree with me, but just be open to the possibilities that I’m here for the greater good and I’m here to serve your best interests. That’s all I ask.”
Dave: Yeah. Very nice.
Craig: So, address all the pink elephants in the room in the beginning of the presentation. It will make the fear go away and it will make a much better presentation. All the pink elephants, Why am I here? I don’t even want to do this job. I gotta pee. Think about what could possibly be the objections, you know who’s this silly looking guy in front of me? Whatever they’re thinking address those upfront and defuse them. Because, just so everyone knows on this call, the reason why we think those thoughts when a presenter steps up in front of us is because there’s a thing in our brain that’s trying to conserve energy and it doesn’t want to spend a lot of energy trying to understand the person to maybe get some value. So the brain quickly says, “Ahh this guy’s an idiot” or “I don’t wanna listen to him” because it’s just trying to conserve energy. So, they’re not being malicious or mean-spirited, it’s just a human ego thing. Send them some love and it’s okay. But, if you address that shit upfront then you defuse that. And then you’re more free.
Dave: Nice, really nice. So, Craig before we finish up I just had one last thing I wanted to ask you. For the listeners, if there’s someone out there, they’re about to go in and do their first speech, they’re about to do their first presentation. They’re nervous as hell, they’re sweating, they don’t know what to do with themselves… What’s your number one piece of advice for them?
Craig: Hire a coach. I don’t specialise in this, but hire someone like David or someone who can go over your presentation. They can go over some of the sticky points that have got you in so much resistance. This is key. It can save you years and years and years of headaches. The other thing you can do is white-knuckle your way through it, but you risk hating what you’re doing and you risk turning off your audience. So, that’s the easiest way, just hire somebody. Hire somebody for just one session. It’s not going to be expensive and you will get a lot of value out of that. That’s what I would do. And also, notice that whenever; and this is life just asking how bad you want this; the scary feelings are just life saying, “Are you prepared?”, “Are you focused?” You know, life will beat you up if you take too much on yourself/
Dave: Definitely. As a young person I definitely went through that, and struggled with that.
Craig: And also, love the struggle. The struggle is part of how diamonds are made by pressure. A certain amount of pressure’s fine. But if you have an daunting amount of pressure and it’s just just freaking you out, get some help. There’s nothing wrong with you. Some of the most successful people in the world have coaches.
Dave: Well, thank you very much for meeting with us today, Craig. I really appreciate it. Everybody, if you want to check out Craig’s book it’s starveyourfear.com and you can also visit Craig at craigdesorcy.com. Thank you very much, thanks, Craig.
Craig: Okay, David. Take care brother.