Ever been here?
“It is my distinct pleasure to introduce a person who has worked tirelessly on this project…”
(Your heart is racing)
“Our speaker today has tons of great ideas and a lot of experience working in…”
(Your breathing is shallow)
“Before we continue, one of us has a few things to add. Please welcome…”
(Your palms are sweating)
Most of us don’t like speaking in public. Just the prospect of public speaking makes us really nervous.
Think about the last time you were asked to speak in public. When did you feel the most nervous? Chances are, you felt most uncomfortable before you even began talking.
Over the years there have been many research studies documenting our attitudes toward public speaking. Some conclude that we fear public speaking more than death. That seems a bit extreme.
Take control of your public speaking nerves!
Accept your racing heart, shallow breathing, and sweating palms as signs that your adrenaline is kicking in.
Adrenaline is positive.
Adrenaline keeps you focused.
Embrace your adrenaline and use it to your advantage.
Here are a few suggestions.
Before you even enter the room
“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” -Winston S. Churchill
Plan what you are going to say ahead of time. Keep your remarks short and to the point. No one likes to a speaker ramble on and on.
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” -Vince Lombardi
The value of practicing can’t be overestimated. Most people are nervous about speaking in public because they don’t do it often. Practicing your material helps you overcome nerves.
Here’s a guideline for organizing your material:
- Decide on the most important thing you want to say
- Say it
- Support it with evidence or facts
- Say it again
If it helps, write short bullet points on a piece of paper to keep you on track.
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” -Plato
Nail your opening. Most people become much calmer once they begin speaking. Practice the first 30-seconds of your remarks. Start by telling your audience the theme of your remarks and how you would like them to participate. For instance, will there be a vote or an action step at the end. If you are clear about your objective, you are less likely to ramble on and, if you are clear about what you want your audience to do, and you tell them what’s expected, they will be more attentive.
When you are in the room
Breathe, don’t pant. With the exception of yoga class, we rarely breathe deeply. Practice breathing deeply through your nose and filling your lungs with air before exhaling. This will help calm your racing heart.
Visualize. Close your eyes and “walk-through” what it looks like to stand up and face the room or to sit and begin your remarks. When you visualize, you familiarize yourself with how you want to look and sound before you actually begin. Using this tool makes you more comfortable with the act of speaking. Visualization works.
Smile. You can never underestimate the power of a smile to relax your face and calm you down. Do a test run in the office or at home. A smile welcomes your audience. After all, who doesn’t want a receptive audience?
But what if I’m in a meeting and asked to present in the moment?
Many of the same ideas apply. If called on to speak, take a deep breath, smile, and thank the person who asked you to speak. This gives you a few moments to do these things,
- Take a deep breath
- Determine the one point you would like to get across
- Consider the supporting evidence that proves your point
Public speaking is largely about beginnings,
the beginning of an idea,
the beginning of a conversation,
or the beginning of an argument.
If you’re clear about the importance of your idea and why you believe it’s important, your passion for the subject will turn your nerves into excitement. Adrenaline will keep you focused.
In your day-to-day work, practice breathing, visualizing, and smiling. Practice choosing the most important point to communicate and explaining the evidence that supports the point.
Practice one idea every day
If you practice now, when you are asked to speak in public, you’ll be well prepared and less anxious.