I was up in front of an audience for the first time in my life. I forgot everything, I forgot my lyrics and panicked. A friend of mine had told me, ‘If you ever forget your lyrics just sing numbers and letters.’ Which is what I did, and I somehow made it through our six-song set.
I was traumatized and ran out to the car. Then the bass player, Jennifer, came out and said, ‘Well Bill, are you ready to do a second set?’ Horrified, I said, ‘No way am I going to go back out there and make a fool of myself a second time.’ She said, ‘Look. The band is waiting and we’re ready to go. So if you don’t want to do the second set you need to tell the band that you’re quitting, and then tell that audience that you’re not going to give them a show.’
So I thought, ‘Well, it certainly couldn’t be any worse that the first set.’ So I just got out there. This time I held a notebook with all my lyrics for reference – and it actually went really well. And people liked it.
As an actor, I forgot my lines many times in front of hundreds of people. That’s why I can so powerfully identify with people who get up in front of groups and have issues with it. It’s because I’ve had challenges with that myself, and I understand how hard that can be.
I try to give my clients an experience in front of other people that shows that they can make some improvement, and have them re-experience what may have been a bad experience in the past.
That’s why a lot of people leave my workshops feeling energized and hopeful. Because public speaking is really not rocket science, it’s pretty straightforward – but we get in our own way and worry about what the audience is thinking, as well as worrying about being perfect. My motto is ‘Be prepared, not perfect.’
Read the full interview here.