I’m very excited to have Annik Petrou on a Hopeful Romantic today. Annik is the founder of the wonderful Pony Express, which trains people to fall in love with public speaking, and when you hear what Annik has to say, I’m sure you’ll be convinced that she definitely is smitten. Welcome, Annik!
K D: Tell us a little bit about PONY Express and how it got started.
Annik: As so often, I constantly felt that others got ahead much faster than me. People who had ideas (that clearly weren’t as good as mine, right?) got promoted faster, were perceived as more intelligent simply because they knew how to communicate and sell themselves. I then started working with different public speaking training techniques, but it only was after I got into Improvisation & Clowning that I understood that real authenticity comes from within and not from external techniques. We integrated A LOT of this experiential and interactive work in the Pony Express training and the results have proven that our training is able to take people from beginner to professional in a couple of months.
K D: How did you get interested in public speaking?
Annik: I attended one of those personal development events where I met my now business partner. He spoke on stage and I thought, ‘WOW, I wanna be as good as him.’ And obviously, all those insecurities I have about myself helped push the whole process along. I felt so out of control when speaking as the nerves took over making me look like a ‘twat’ on stage [in my perception] and I simply wanted to be more in control of the whole process and not a victim to my fears.
K D: If you could give only one suggestion to help people get over their nerves for speaking in public, what would it be?
Annik: Start speaking before you think you are ready. The nerves calm with practice and time. People often wait for too many years or read books or watch videos instead of getting uncomfortable and throwing themselves into the cold water and on stage. Every mistake is a lesson you would have NEVER learned without getting it wrong first. So don’t be afraid to speak-up and potentially ‘get it wrong’ – be afraid of not giving it a GO. Practice makes perfect.
K D: What are the biggest mistakes you see people making when they get up to speak?
Annik: They don’t have a grounding routine before stepping on stage. Grounding techniques like power posing, breathing techniques or detachment processes help to get you out of your head back into your body, which has a massive positive impact on your presence. Another mistake is that people start with totally pointless comments like ‘Thank you for having me…’ instead of really sparking the audience up from the first 15 seconds.
K D: I know from my own public speaking experiences that the speaker has to connect with her audience. Any advice to speakers on how to do that?
Annik: Apart from the obvious like being present, looking into their eyes and not the ceiling or back wall and NOT overloading them with too many details — waffle on and on and on because you don’t have a real structure – I’d say doing a ‘YOU’ count is a great connection tool. I often hear people say, ‘I have done this, I have done that …’ I I I I! Me
me me me! Make it about them. Draw them in, for example, instead of saying, ‘I have five years of experience working in the social media industry.’ Say, ‘In five years of working in the social media industry here are three tips for you.’ You connect by making it about them.
K D: What is your best experience of public speaking?
Annik: I love the difference in people’s eyes when I take them through different processes or do a session on improvisation. It gets them out of their heads, and I feel so much more alive too and powerful. No one can deny the positive effect of realising the impact you have on others.
KD: Does learning to comfortably speak in front of an audience change people’s lives in other ways as well?
Annik: You bet! One thing I hear a lot from people doing our six-month Speaking Accelerator is, ‘I wish I would have done this training earlier.’ It’s not only the speaking bit but the certainty and power it gives you. You negotiate harder, sell more, feel more in control of your life. People gained the confidence to start their own business, got better paid speaking gigs or corporate contracts and also got the desired investment when pitching at Dragon’s Den, for example.
K D: How can people get in touch with PONY Express if they would like to become more comfortable speaking in public?
Annik: Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07734312891. We run a monthly Club Night every second last Wednesday of the month. There’s more information at www.ponyepressclub.com or our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/ponyexpressclub. I want to hear from you and can’t wait hearing your story.
K D: How has coaching public speaking changed your life?
Annik: I am honestly a different person. I always used to be loud to mask all my insecurities, so there was no real substance to me. Now, I am ME – ON and OFF stage. It’s such a relief.
K D: Anything else you’d like to share, Annik?
Annik: It’s all about taking risks. Playing small means you’re comfortable, but not memorable. If you never give it a go – you’ll never know! And nerves are part of playing a bigger game. So get nervous and start speaking.