I spoke with several people who want to tell their life stories via an audio or video recording but they’re anxious about doing it. It’s probably the biggest reason for not creating a personal history. “I want to tell my story,” they say, “but the prospect of making a recording makes me a bit nervous.”
I tell them that they have complete control over the results and if they don’t like it they don’t have to use it and professionals will guide them through the interview “but” some people still hesitate.
So what to do?
Participating in a personal history and speaking in public have much in common.
I’ve been in public relations for over 30 years and I’ve done hundreds of formal speeches, live radio and television shows and endless interviews. I’ve been on national television and radio dozens of times. I’ve hosted radio and television programs for 20 years.
Speaking in public is hard. Simply acknowledging this and the fear that comes with it is the first step. If anyone ever tells you that they don’t get nervous during a recording they are being less than honest.
Note that personal historians are experts in putting you at ease. You and they prepare for the interview and you are asked lots of questions beforehand. If you forget something, they will remind you of important issues or facts. Personal historians don’t do anything that brings embarrassment. They allow you to tell your story comfortably.
Some tips for getting it right:
Take 10 deep breaths and let them out very slowly several times before the event. I’m so good at this I can to it in front of other people without them knowing it.
Find your natural speaking style. Don’t try to emulate others. Find your comfort zone. One person I know imagined talking to his teenage sons when they needed a reality check. He channeled the same authority and presence for his interview. He spoke to interviewer like he was a son who needed a good talking to. He took command.
Practice the interview before the recording. Have conversations with those you trust.
Understand you may get nervous and anticipate it so if it happens it’s not overwhelming. The nervousness often passes in 5-10 seconds. If the interviewer perceives nervousness he or she will come to your aid by asking questions or stating facts. To you, it’s a concern. To listeners, it’s a minor blip “if” they notice at all.
Acknowledge that you’re a bit nervous. It’s fine. Listeners will respond warmly. We’ve all been there.
In my professional life I use nervousness as strength, not a weakness. I embrace it. I channel it into an energy level that allows a good presentation.
The bottom-line in personal recordings is that you have complete control over the interview. If you don’t like it, we won’t use it. If you want to do it several times, it’s your decision.
Want to provide a great personal history? Understand that no one expects perfection. And quite frankly, a flub or two makes you sound authentic. You become a real person that people can identify with. When I do a work-related recording I leave my mistakes (yes, I make plenty) in for that reason.
Some preparation coupled with a seasoned interviewer and knowledge that it doesn’t have to be perfect “will” produce something you can be proud of.