February 25, 2020

Lesson 5: Public Speaking

This is part five of an ongoing series called “Lessons Learned at M&Co.” You can find lesson one here, lesson two here, lesson three here, and lesson four here.

I teach dozens of first-time homebuyer seminars every year. I’ve spoken at the National Association of Realtor’s annual conference. I have sat on many industry panels (CAR YPN, NSBAR YPN, CAR Member Outreach, Leading Ladies, Real Producers Magazine, and next month, Chicago Title).

If you told a younger me that public speaking would be such a substantial part of my life and career, I would have passed out, right then and there. I’ve struggled with social anxiety ever since I can remember. I would blush if I got called on in school, freak out before parties, and get clammy whenever it was my turn to share my prayer request at small group (honestly, I still do!). There’s something about having eyes on me that makes me feel very, very uncomfortable. I know I am not the only one.

I started teaching my homebuyer seminar, “So You Want to Buy a Condo”, in October 2015. Since then, the crowds have only gotten bigger. Now, I host it once a month for the public, and I also present at companies during the lunch hour. If I do the math, I’ve taught between three and four thousand people how to buy homes.

But the butterflies, the thumping heart, the doubtful thoughts… I feel all of that every single time! I’m fairly certain I always will. Over time, though, my intense fear of live audience has lessened. I still get nervous before each event, but once I have the microphone in hand, I take off, flying through the presentation until the very last slide.

For this lesson, I want to share my secrets to surviving (and maybe even thriving) in front of a live audience.

Lesson 5: Public Speaking

Secret #1: Look like yourself! In the early days of SYWTBAC, I always wore monochromatic J.Crew dresses and stiff patent leather pumps — classic business casual. As my career progressed, I started changing up my look a little bit, adding in my favorite jean jackets in the summer, animal print skirt in the fall, and lots of fun outfits from Zara in between. When I dress in clothes that actually make me feel like Melanie, I am much more confident on stage.

Secret #2: Know your content. “So You Want to Buy a Condo” is all about how to buy your first property, a topic I know like the back of my hand — I can rattle off the process to a pole! When I’m in front of a crowd, I don’t need to read off the screen or notecards. This helps me focus on catering to the audience, instead of saying the right thing.

Secret #3: Listen to your body. I used to think that I’d just have a glass of wine before a presentation to calm my nerves, but experience has taught me otherwise. Wine tends to make me flushed and warm — a sensation I do not like to have at an event — so now, I celebrate with a drink afterwards.

Secret #4: Don’t seek perfection. There are presentations when I feel like I totally bombed, and then there are times when I’ve got the audience laughing and nodding along with me. There are way too many variables — the people who show up, the weather, the way I’m feeling that day, so on and so forth. Ultimately, all that matters is that I deliver the information that people came for. I can’t knock it out of the park every time, and that has to be okay with me.

Secret #5: Get a routine. This tip is the absolute most important one for me. Before every seminar, I read the first chapter of a book (The Saving Life of Christ by Ian Thomas). The author reminds me of all that is true: God literally lives in me! He is the One who speaks through me and works through me. When I get up to the microphone, it’s not just Melanie alone up there. It’s Melanie and God, His spirit flowing through me. It’s an all-encompassing, weight-off-my-chest sort of peace. This is my routine — yours might look different. Maybe it’s a pump-up song or a phone call with your mom. Anything goes!