To stand on stage and perform feels vulnerable, so when you are on a line up with other speakers, that’s when the comparison voice kicks in.
I’m sat watching the guy who is speaking before me. He is really funny. Like really funny. I’m not that funny. And he has no notes – how is he doing all this without notes?
Then the next lady steps on the stage and she is covering really similar stuff to me, so obviously my brain starts up: “they are going to find out that you aren’t as clever as you make out”. And again “oh she is putting this message together much better than you do”…
And then your brain hits you with this doozy: “Are you sure you’re good enough?”
Brene Brown says that “Comparison is the killer of creativity and joy”.
And as I sat there trying to stop myself from going into a flat spin, I started to deploy the methods I use that remind me of the only thing that can stop you from killing your creativity and joy…
Remember that You are You.
I get all my clients to establish who they are before doing anything else. Understanding what you bring to the table, where your strengths lie, and what you are trying to achieve, eradicates comparison. All that matters is that you are attempting to be the best you can be, in line with your own values. Grasp this, and then suddenly you won’t be worrying about what others do.
Presenter Chris Evans said on his first Virgin Radio show in January “If anyone is any good then there is room for everyone”. He was replying to those who were curious about any competition between him and his old Radio 2 show. He’s right.
I also used to get really worried that I wasn’t as good as other people doing what I do. That was until I started to realise that there wasn’t one or two people that I was in competition with… there are thousands of people doing it, all over the world. All I can do is do the best I can to help the people I want to help.
Of course, competition is useful, It spurs us on and helps us to be better, and competition is fuelled by comparison. So, be clear on who you are, what you want people to remember, and focus on that. You can wave goodbye to comparisonitis.
Rejection is a yukky thing.
This week as Global Radio in the UK consolidated their local breakfast and drive shows. Industry press juggernaut Radio Today estimates that 250 presenters could be affected by the changes in the UK. And it’s all kicking in, in a month’s time. There are households across the country now wondering “what now?”.
As a radio presenter, your career is built on rejection: The number of demos and conversations that lead to nothing. The number of times a new boss comes in and you have to hold tight to find out if you still have a job. The time the station decides to refresh the lineup and you get offered a weekend show from your daily one. The time another radio group buys your station. Or as we have seen this week: The time Ofcom rules change and the “business” end of things get in the way of your dreams.
The difficulties are that it all gets played out in public and when your product is “you”, it’s very difficult to not take it personally.
I’ve been through redundancy twice, and left my role as Content Controller at Key 103 because of a “restructure”. I’ve also had to let people go: there’s a BBC National presenter who was on the receiving end of me “not renewing their contract” at a local commercial station some years ago, who I am sure (quite rightly) is and will be dining out on it for years to come. Mr C lost his beloved Xfm Manchester Breakfast show, when Radio X (another Global Station) was launched and it was announced that Chris Moyles was going to be networked from London.
Long story short the outcomes were – Tim got his gig on Virgin Radio and BT Sport and launched Hive Content. I launched The Presenter Coach which has gone from strength to strength. And the presenter I let go: well you see it say “BBC National Presenter” right?
Most stories of losing jobs, end with the protagonist saying “it was probably one of the best things that happened to me”. The thing is, in the moment, no matter how well you are compensated, you can’t help but feel utterly rejected when your boss tells you that you are no longer needed in your current role.
Here are a few of things that got me and Mr C through it the last time (and will get us through it next time):
- Permission to Grieve
When you are in the eye of the storm of rejection – it’s not a calm, reflective experience. It’s clunky, difficult and sad. It’s really sad. So allow yourself space to grieve.
The reality is that you are experiencing loss. Rejection in this way isn’t just about feeling unwanted – you will have lost a part of your life you love, and even base your identity on. It’s not easy. I found that once I recognised what I was experiencing was grief, it was a lot easier to cut myself some slack.
It’s easy to put pressure on dusting yourself off and picking yourself back up and to “man up”, but the best use of your time is going along with your emotions as they come and allow them to become part of you.
2. Do Not Get Confused Between MERIT and TASTE*
You were and are good enough to be there in the first place (this is merit), but the new boss wants their station product to sound like a Twix and you are a glorious Mars Bar (this is taste). Or the new boss wants to run a more streamlined business (I’m going to call this taste too!).
“You” are the presenting product, and that means that sometimes your product isn’t right for the station product. It feels personal, but the decision is very rarely personal. (It’s worth remembering this when you are the one delivering the news too.)
Trust you will find your new product “fit”.
3. Put Your Audience First
When your audience finds out you are leaving, be gracious. Remember without them you are just a person talking in a box on your own. A beloved mentor of mine said to me, at the time I was leaving: “if you are comfortable with it, others will be comfortable too”. The minute you become snarky or awkward, your audience will begin to doubt your intentions and feel discomfort. Remember you need them with you, in whatever you do next.
4. “Don’t Make Any Decisions For 10 Weeks”
I have to credit the same mentor with this one and it was excellent advice.
Tim and I held off making any decisions and allowed ourselves time to think (we lost our gigs at the same time). I explored options, tried things out and allowed the thing I wanted the most to rise to the top. Before setting up The Presenter Coach, I thought I was ready to go down a different path. But by holding off for the 10 weeks it allowed me to set my mind and get what I really wanted.
It also meant that Tim and I had time to redecorate the kitchen! Ha!
5. The Rejectee Becomes The Rejector…
Post-rejection is the perfect time for reflection, but you are likely to be vulnerable to making decisions out of financial or spiritual necessity, rather than personal choice.
Sort out your finances and make it so that they will last you as long as possible without work. Establish what time you have* – how many hours a day are spent on sleeping, eating, exercising, netflix. Set some goals and commitments. Think about your habits. Read, learn, eat well, exercise, sleep, find joy.
Do whatever you need to do to be in a position to choose when an opportunity comes your way. Feeling like you can say “nope” to the ideas and jobs that aren’t quite right is important in choosing the “right” thing for you next.
Of course, when 250 presenters lose their seat at the ever-shrinking radio presenter table it starts to look bleak. My observation is that now more than ever, the presenters that will be secure are the ones with the “portfolio” career: write the book, make the podcast, own the production company, do the voiceovers, set up a kids club, run an events company – all the while presenting too. And when it comes to changing careers and sectors all together; Lisa Kerr did a talk at Next Radio a few years ago about the invaluable transferable skills you get from radio.
In the same week the radio industry felt a sack full of rejection, I went to PechaKucha Manchester – a spoken word night with 10 speakers, each talk is 20 slides and they have 20 seconds per slide. This week’s theme: “Rejection”. (Anywhere you see an * in this blog is credit to this night). From those 10 talks I was reminded:
Rejection is a yukky thing but…
- it helps you focus on you
- it sets you on the right path
- it helps you reassess and rebuild
- it should be felt in everything you do, because then you know you’re doing it right.
I am on the train on the way to do my first big industry talk. I have memorised it. But all I can think is “what if I forget the words?”. I mutter my words as I recite it in my head over and over. I am consumed with nerves.
I get to the conference in time for lunch. A friend speaks to me and I am incapable of holding a conversation. I am consumed with nerves.
Next, I am pacing backstage reciting the talk over and over. I am on in 10 minutes. I am consumed with nerves.
I hit the stage – the nerves? They’ve turned in to adrenaline. I am flying. I am loving it. And I remember the words.
Many people come to me worried about nerves. They tell me they’ve tried the breathing, they’ve tried the NLP techniques, they’ve tried imagining the audience naked (I’ve never really understood this one!), they say they’ve tried everything – and they are still riddled with butterflies, shaky knees and that overwhelming feeling that everyone can see they are rubbish.
They say to me: “How do I get rid of my nerves?”
Here is your magic bullet:
Trying to ‘get rid’ of your nerves is a waste of time and a losing battle. What you do is manage your nerves, and here are 3 techniques to try.
1) Accept The Nerves
I recently interviewed comedian Hayley Ellis and she talked about how when she started she used to wear a scarf to hide the anxiety rash she would get from the nerves of performing.
This is not uncommon with many actors and comedians talking of having nerves when performing.
The reality is that everyone gets nerves in one form or another. Some people talk about using their nerves, or seeing them as positive – may be telling yourself that they are excitement rather than anxiety.
The trick is to accept them. Fighting the nerves and thinking you are not supposed to feel nervous is a sure fire way to fuel your anxiety. Accepting fear as part of the process is the only way to help reduce and manage it.
I saw comedian David Nihill, writer of “Do You Talk Funny?”, speak at TEDx Manchester, and after speaking to comedians and working through his own nerves his summary was “the nerves will always be there – you have to learn how to manage them”.
2) Do It Again, And Again, And Again
Once you’ve accepted that you are going to get nervous and that the nerves are all part of the process – do it more than once.
Take all opportunities to speak. And make sure you use rehearsal in the process.
I run my speaker courses over 6 weeks. By doing this, people focus on their rehearsal rather than on their performance. From week 1 the participants speak in front of their fellow students and they repeat it every week.
On more than one occasion the repeated rehearsal in front of their peers has led students to acknowledge the reduction of their nerves.
The best way I can describe this is that this is not about getting out of your comfort zone, and staying uncomfortable. It’s about GROWING your comfort zone so the uncomfortable becomes comfortable.
3) Make It About The Audience
It is so easy to think that you are on show and that everyone can see all your vulnerabilities as you stand there on stage and that everyone will notice every slip up and that everyone is staring at you and they know that the stuff you’re saying isn’t as good as you want it to be etc etc etc.
This is all of course nonsense. If people could really read your mind, no one would ever need to speak in public.
Take the pressure off yourself.
The best speakers make it about the audience. In her book “Out Front” speaker Deborah Shames recounts that one of her best-received talks was when she just spent the whole time answering the audience’s questions. Take the light that you feel is shining on you, and shine it on your audience. Make it about them, give them something useful and entertaining and you will get the best feedback.
The magic bullet to get rid of your nerves is that there isn’t one. Once you accept that nerves are part of the process you can work out your way to manage them, rehearse with them and then make it about everyone else but you. Stepping out of your comfort zone should never really be a one-off experience, it should be about getting uncomfortable and then making it comfortable.