How to Speak like a CEO Without Practicing
This is the story of a VP who swore that he would never speak in front of an audience without the nerves that took hold of his body.
Arjun was a natural leader in his organization. But there was something holding him back.
Arjun could speak with ease and confidence among his team, but when he faced those in higher authority, he froze.
He'd spend hours, even days and weeks, preparing and over-preparing, drilling each word into his mind. But it was never really about the words; it was about this crippling fear that those words would abandon him when he needed them the most. All the notes, memorized scripts completely left his mind.
As a VP, he was expected to always be calm, and relaxed. Pressure from his seniors, pressure from those who looked up to him.
The pressure was unimaginable. Every word, pause, and gesture felt like they were under a microscope. It wasn't just a presentation; it was a judgment on his leadership, his competence, his very worth.
So when Arjun came to me, I could hear the pain in his voice.
He asked me “Just teach me some speaking tips so I can speak more confidently…”
But here’s the thing … Speaking tips are exactly … what he didn’t need.
He didn't need scripts, he didn’t need notes. He didn’t need to memorize, or use more gestures, or to speak better…. he needed to be himself.
His lack of confidence did not come from the lack of his speaking skills; he could speak just fine with friends, colleagues, and those hew knew. But he was not able to access his skillset under pressure.
THAT was the problem. He just didn’t know how to handle pressure.
I prepared a plan for him over 8 weeks that allowed him to focused on what he wanted to say, not what he thought he should say.
We practiced, but in a different way.
The goal was not to increase his skill of speaking
But to reduce the pressure he felt.
We practiced trusting Arjun's knowledge, his instincts, his leadership.
We practiced until Arjun could look at his thoughts and express them freely, without that fear in the back of his mind.
This is what I had him do:
-Identify your inner critic. List down all his ‘limiting beliefs and inner critic voices’ and challenge them. You must know the enemy before you battle the enemy. Become very familiar with the recurring thoughts you get, and each time you do, notice them and say ‘‘Oh, it’s my mind trying to sabotage me again. I know its tricks. This is not me, this is the inner critic in my brain.” This will takeaway all the power away from your inner critic.
- Remind yourself, it’s okay to feel pressure. It just means the moment is important. Everyone feels like it. The moment you start thinking “Why is this happening!” You’re in the spiral of hopeless thoughts. Catch yourself doing this and say “This is normal. Feeling nervous is normal. My mind is trying to throw me off here. I won’t fall for it.”
- After you catch yourself thinking. Divert attention away from thought immediately. This can only be done through action.
Thinking will only make you think in infinite loops, making your anxiety worse.
Instead, bring your attention to something else like a game on your phone, your breathe, watching a comedy show. Keep the mind busy until it’s time to present.
I personally like to focus on my inhale and exhale for up to 5 minutes before my presentation and my mind does not think of anything else.
- Your perception of events shapes your experience with them. What you focus on is what you get. If 99% of your thoughts are about how bad you will do, there’s a 99% shot you’ll do much worse than you would otherwise.
Arjun's transformation was incredible. The fear that had once controlled him was now defeated. He still felt it, but it no longer had an impact on him.
He spoke before his superiors with genuine passion and conviction, not with rehearsed eloquence. He wasn't performing; he was leading.
This is what he texted me after a presentation in front of leadership that normally would have terrified him.
Did I teach him to speak? Maybe for a week or so just to cover the basics.
After that, we didn’t do any speaking training.
Don’t judge yourself at all.
Don’t put gigantic expectations on yourself.
When you do that, you feel free, you feel relaxed.
Being relaxed allows you to speak freely from your gut, because you’re already an expert.
Trusting ourselves and embracing authenticity can turn a stage from a battlefield into a platform for our true selves.
What gets in the way is our conscious mind constantly criticizing us, constantly telling us we’re not good enough.
What would you be able to achieve if you weren’t so hard on yourself?
If your main challenge is SPEAKING ANXIETY or SPEAKING UNDER PRESSURE
Chances are, you’re already a great speaker, you just need to ask yourself a different question:
What speaking tips can I use to speak confidently?
How can I allow myself to relax, so I naturally speak better?
I’ve made a longer video about this as well, check it out.
I hope this helps
How to appear confident as a CEO when speaking