Smash the imposter syndrome on stage

I think if I had to choose one term to capture the vibe, the zeitgeist of the past decade, it might be the imposter syndrome.

I’m no psychologist. I can’t really speak with authority on the syndrome itself.

But what I can do is talk to you about feeling like an imposter when you speak on stage – and what you can do about it.

Ever pitched for (or been invited to!) a talk at a high profile event and GOTTEN IN? Or been promoted and now you have to present to senior management for the first time?

Do you feel 5 seconds of joy followed by several minutes of dread, thinking that you’re not up for the task and you’re just pretending to be someone you’re not?

That you don’t deserve to be on that stage?

You’re not alone.

I’ve spoken to industry experts, worked with C-suite execs prepping for media interviews and rehearsed with budding TEDx speakers.

This was a common nagging thought:

There are so many people better qualified to do this. Why am I here?

So this is your one actionable framework to battle the imposter syndrome when you’re speaking on any stage:

Focus on what you and ONLY YOU can offer the audience

🔥 You’re not just a vehicle for disseminating information during the presentation or talk. You have a unique perspective, unique experiences, a unique point of view. Be open about including it. Add value to the data by adding your interpretation, experience and perspective.

🔥 You create a win-win: your audience will walk away with a deeper understanding of where you’re coming from. And you will feel more legitimized. Your experience and opinion matter.

🔥 This takes your focus away from wondering if you’re qualified to be there, to adding value in any way you can.

One of my clients was asked in a media interview: “So can your tech do X?” X was a functionality that the client’s software didn’t have. Instead of wondering whether they were qualified to comment on something they hadn’t created yet, they responded with “Not yet, but here’s why I think our current tech can pave the way to do X in the future…” and then proceeded to list down the reasons.

🔥 Focusing on what only you can offer also forces you naturally to come up with your own perspective.

So, if you were used to being Agreeable Andrew who goes with the flow, this exercise will make you think deeply about what it is that you DO want to stand for and be known for. This will help each time senior management asks you, “So what do you think Andrew?”

🔥 This is not just limited to your opinions or stories. Make the next presentation your own by selecting and expressing the information in your own way.

A senior manager that I coached walked into a monthly update meeting and turned it into a mini team-building session. It was a nice surprise for an otherwise dull meeting and it put her stamp on the meeting format.

🔥 Finally, this is a great way to put a firm stop to comparisons. Comparing yourself with other great speakers only brings you misery and the desire for poor imitation. Neither one of those will serve you.

Once you change the game that you’re playing to competing with yourself, only you can win.

With that thought, I leave you with this week’s Speak as a Leader podcast: Leadership Lessons from the Pentagon.

I talk to Jared Johnson, who was a senior leader at the US Air Force and is currently the CEO at Arlandria Consulting about what speaking as a leader – in and beyond the US military – means to him. We dive into what leadership is and isn’t, what awesome and broken communication look like, and whether the emperor was really wearing any clothes at all.

I’d love to hear what you think of the episode. (And if you like it, please leave me a 5 star rating. It would mean the world!)

Till we meet again, speak fearlessly!

💜 Nausheen

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