First of all, EVERYONE gets nervous or has a degree of anxiety when speaking publicly, so before you read any further, take a deep breath and calm yourself.
Public speaking in any form puts you in a position to “pass or fail.” Your job is to immediately eliminate the “fail” option and visualize the energy of the room — which you, in fact, will help create — the potential of making people feel engaged and entertained, and the rush you will feel after you are done.
Here are a few things to put on your list . . .
- Treat the build-up toward your next speaking opportunity the same as your next golf shot. Everyone who plays golf with regularity has a reliable “pre-shot routine,” and, if you don’t play golf, then think of a basketball player at the free throw line or a baseball player in the batter’s box. Each does the same thing every time. It’s that way for a reason. The routine allows them focus and consistency in their execution. That’s what you need for your speech.
- I have my own “pre-shot routine”, which involves a walk, a private place for a talk with myself and a few other things I always do. You’ll find your sweet spot, don’t worry. The goal is merely to relax and contain the energy so you have it when you need it.
- When you’re walking up on the stage, remember to breathe.
- If you don’t speak with regularity and have a tendency to get so wound up that you go silent before you talk, look for a distraction to calm yourself down. Most events will have a lunch or breakfast before, or maybe even a cocktail hour. If so, work the room for a while and find somebody to talk to. This often can relax you a bit and keep your first moments on the stage from feeling as though there are all strangers on the other side.
- Just before your speech or talk, find someone near you to chat with just briefly, have a laugh or smile. Sitting in a chair just waiting can get your mind racing and your heart pounding. Let’s find a way to eliminate that.
- Make sure you check out the room well before your talk that day. Understand your environment. Can you move freely? Are there aisles to walk up and down and keep people focused on you? Is there a podium which allows for notes? Nobody wants to be fooled at the last minute. I call it a “site survey.” I want to make sure I know what I’m getting myself into. You can even do that on a call with the meeting planner if it’s a big speech. Or, if it’s a business meeting, just expect the intimacy of a small room.
This might sound strange, but to me, the bigger the room the more comfortable I feel. An intimate space puts you right in front of everyone. A big stage and the potential of a podium give you distance and comfort.
A couple final things . . .
- Please don’t write your speech and then read it to people. If you do write it, write like you talk and don’t talk like it’s written. If it’s a talk filled with slides, focus the majority of time on the audience, and not your slides. Simple stuff, but important.
- Lastly, just a reminder that everyone gets butterflies in the stomach. The goal is for you to find your comfort zone to make them fly in unison. Success and failure, when it comes to speaking, can happen before you even make the effort to walk on stage or stand before your group. What’s YOUR mindset? Build on that just as you would your presentation.