My job requires me to speak to millions of people every day, whether I’m in front of a camera, like on Fox Sports, or a live audience (see: Good Morning America). But public speaking wasn’t always my strong suit. Believe it or not, I’m really a shy person—don’t laugh, it’s true—so speaking in front of a crowd, whether it’s on TV or behind a podium, can still make me a little uneasy.
The thing that makes all of this in-the-spotlight talk even harder is that GMA and Fox NFL Sunday are two totally different experiences. Fox mainly involves having a camera in my face all day and there’s no live audience to play off of, aside from the people who work on set. At GMA, the first hour is similar to Fox with no audience but the second hour is in front of a live audience, and that means anything can happen and sometimes does. The experience is different because of the direct feedback you get: With an audience, you say something and immediately you can see the looks on everyone’s faces. You can hear them laugh, groan, gasp (or not) and it lets you know how they’re responding to what they’re hearing. And when there’s no audience, then you’re just going off of your feel for TV and hoping the viewer is enjoying what you’re doing and getting some benefit out of what you’re saying.
Despite these differences, my approach is pretty much the same: I focus on the fact that I have a story to tell and I do my best to convey that story to other people out there, like I’m talking to a bunch of close friends. My life hasn’t been conventional, so it’s nice to be able to share my adventures with others because maybe they’ll find something in my story that inspires them. I’ve learned to get through my discomfort to make other people comfortable.
I’ve been a panelist and speaker for a lot of live events, too, and I basically attack those kinds of challenges the same way: I try to figure out what the premise of the speech is and the message I want to convey, and then I just go through my mental Rolodex on what’s happened in my life that I can share. With any good speech, you need have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and I feel like those are the things I start out with and then let the details fill in as I go. It’s hard to write a speech and think you’re going to stick to it word for word. Some people can do that, just get up and read their speech as it was written, but I like to make eye contact with people. I don’t like to look down at the paper. I write down a key word and I’ll look at that word and take it from there, which allows me to have a relationship with the audience.
When all else fails and I’m still nervous? I just slow things down. I talk a little slower, I take my time going through the motions, and try not to get ahead of myself until I fall into a groove. And then I picture everyone in their underwear.