When you get a gig, or know you are going to speak -- do you get freaked out weeks in advance? Do you then procrastinate working on material and spend your time fretting about how you're not working on material?
Even though I've headlined comedy clubs across the country, given speeches for 15 years, and played the accordion on stage at a Prince concert - I still get terrified every time I have a gig coming up.
I freaked out all last week about a speaking engagement coming up in Santa Barbara. I woke up and went to bed with my inner critic tearing me apart:
"You're no expert. Your monologues aren't that funny. And even your INTERNAL monologue isn't funny ... and I should know!"
I try to reassure myself that I've been professionally acknowledged and paid large sums of money for what I do, so I must not suck at it -- but I still wake up drenched in flop sweat while worry spins away.
(Who needs to read 'Fifty Shades of Grey' when I have my own personal dominatrix in my head?)
Oh, by the way, the topic of my speech? "Laughing Your Way Out of Stress."
It's ironic that speaking on stress reduction makes me so stressed. No matter how many standing ovations I get, and no matter how many people validate my expertise with hefty fees or kind words -- I still stress about speaking about stress.
I started to wonder... do most speakers speak about what they need to learn themselves?
Barbara De Angelis, best selling author on empowerment and building successful relationships, started her career dressed in a gold bikini as a magician's assistant. Then she went on to survive 3 divorces and an annulment. So yes, she's enormously successful now... but she also knows what it's like to feel not so important, or to really struggle in a relationship.
The people that speak on weight loss (and how YOU can do it too) -- are only believable to the rest of us if they've been fat. (And I don't mean a few extra pounds that make your jeans too tight ... I mean giant spandex pants fat.) We find the message more believable when it comes from someone who's walked in our shoes ... or our huge pants. That's why so many of the winners on The Biggest Loser build profitable speaking careers.
The reason many speakers and comics become experts on a topic is their journey to face their own problems (or inner critics). So very often, when we're on stage, we're not only giving advice to the audience -- but also to ourselves.
If you're looking for a topic for your speaking career, or a comedy topic you can riff on, don't just consider what you're good at. Look at your struggles, your weaknesses, and your biggest failures.
They say what goes up must comes down, but it often works the other way too. People tend to bounce back from failure, if they pay attention and learn from their mistakes. Look at when you've been really down - and how you bounced back up. You might've learned something on the way - and it might be something that people will pay you large amounts of money to share.What in your life was your worst moment? And -- how can you make it work for you now?