I received the following desperate note on Facebook Messenger yesterday:
I have just been informed that I have to do two; 45 minute presentations at our national sales meetings in one week in Texas.
I am not a good speaker.
What I mean by that, is that I’m petrified.
I hate any form of public speaking.
Because I am awful at it: my voice cracks, I tell awkward jokes, I hyperventilate.
So if you could please provide any tips and tricks that you use??
For example, what do you do if you’re out of breath because you’re freaking out?
The really important part is that we have just been purchased as of 48 hours ago by another company, so this is an opportunity for me to shine!
It’s just not my element.
So again, if you could please, please, please just share any tips I would be most graciously appreciative.
~ Erin C.
First off, Erin, Thank You for voicing this and reaching out. Happy to help, as I know many people, myself included, have felt this same way.
Here is a Checklist To Calm Your Nerves Before a Speech:
- Know Your Material – if you’ve written the speech, gone over it, and have cue cards (rather than word for word), you will be able to make it through if you’ve practiced a few times
- Record Yourself – all of my speech coaching clients know I make them record their voice practicing the talk with a Voice Memo for audio to listen back, as well as with Video selfie mode to watch themselves. It may feel odd but creates immediate feedback to improve.
- Set Up a Zoom/Skype/Webinar to Practice – ask a peer, friend, or family member to do a call with you and give your speech to them. Remember: speak with them, not at them, it is a conversation as your speech. This will calm your nerves to realize a speech isn’t a monologue that must be perfect, but rather a conversation with the audience, to people one on one.
- Run Through it with your Slides Set Up or Notes nearby – in your office, hotel room or on stage at the event for sound check, ensure you’ve gone through it slide by slide with clicker in hand, as if presenting LIVE to the audience. This will set your heart rate at ease.
- Get There Early – watch each person enter the room at your event. Look at them and acknowledge they are human and filled with love, that they long for learning from you specifically, and are excited to hear from you.
- They Want you to Succeed! – believe each person there wants you to do well, because they do. They’re cheering for you. Believe this and accept it internally as a gift the audience is giving you.
- Don’t Sit: Go Backstage – best to not sit prior to your presentation. Better to walk backstage and have a chance to pace, move, spin, dance, whatever you have to do to get into a state of readiness to perform. Just don’t sit down.
- Breathe – if you have practiced Yoga, Pilates, other breathing exercise techniques, this is the perfect time to allow yourself to breathe. Not just backstage, but on stage as well. I even encourage my clients to walk on stage, smile, and breathe for the audience to hear. It’s good to let them know you’re breathing and ready, and controlled.
- Power Position – choose a spot on the stage that is your Power Position. Make it a spot you like to get to which allows your mind to reset. This is also a place to breathe, collect yourself, some choose a podium, others the center in front, some even step into their spot by counting “1-2 Go”.
- Freaking Out on Stage – if you begin hyperventilating, having an issue vocally, mouth dry, can’t stand – it’s ok to acknowledge your concern and challenge, your fear of being up there, and ask if anyone’s felt the same when presenting to their peers – and saying it out loud to the audience. They will cheer you on. Have water and a towel pre-set on stage to use, something to hold yourself up with – the podium or a highboy on stage. Lean against it, hang onto it. Drink the water. Stop and gather yourself. Realtime speeds up on stage to about 10:1, so if you can get your mind to calm down by beginning with a story that is so easy for you to tell without really thinking, get the audience laughing, once they clap for you, find someone in the front row that is your person with a kind smile or face that lifts you up and just focus on them. I recommend even finding 3 happy faces in the room at different spots in the audience to focus on, so you’re addressing everyone – all of that shifts things for you immediately as you feel more pressure released by your being accepted on stage.
These tips should assist in bringing down some of the pressure leading up to your stage experience as well as the actual moments in the lights.
Now, 2 final thoughts to close:
1- LATE AT NIGHT – there is a torture you will undoubtedly experience leading up to your presentation, and it will be with you every day, all day, a weight that will sit with you in your chest, and gets even worse at night.
Your EXERCISE in this moment is a Visualization Practice I’ve described below.
This is a text I sent to a speaking client in response to this feeling and I hope you’ll internalize it:
“You are going to go to bed every night until your presentation and you are going to feel that weight in your chest every night as your mind races through each scenario.
Please do an exercise and promise me you’ll do this:
When you can’t sleep and mind is racing, picture yourself having fun giving your speech!
Feel the energy.
See the crowd loving you.
Be grateful and excited knowing you’ve prepared fully for it.
Feel the love.
You’ve worked hard to have this opportunity to speak.
It’s like your Olympics and that’s a momentous shot!
You’re already a Star so this is the building of you as The Legend.
And then imagine the embraces from your peers, others who have felt the same feelings, and equally feel the pride of your successes in those peers who still can’t get on the same stages and yet may be deserving.
But you have reached this pinnacle.
Allow the joy of what’s going to take place to consume your thoughts, how this is a tipping point to the next level.
When you feel the pressure visualize this is that one moment, that one shot, perhaps like Queen at Wembley Stadium and how joyous Freddie Mercury was knowing this was HIS MOMENT.
I’m so excited, and equally feel and know the pressure you’re under, and hope you can allow the joy to comfort your soul each night until you’ve checked this off.
Love you my friend.”
2- LIFE or DEATH – just a simple reminder: this speech isn’t life or death.
Yes, you could flub a line or forget something, heck you could tell a joke that doesn’t get a laugh…but really, what is the big deal? It’s a creation of fear in your own mind. And that’s normal to make it bigger than it is.
If you can take this as an opportunity, a prize you’ve won, due to your being asked to speak when no one else is, as a moment in your life to be thankful for this chance, to stand and be authentically who you are, to share yourself, warts and all, greatness, gifts and everything that makes you amazing, people appreciate that much more than the “perfect presentation”.
You’ve got this.
And Promise me this: Remember to BREATHE.
Excited to hear how it turns out, and if you have other ideas that you’ve used to calm the nerves and be ready for a presentation, please comment below.
Leadership Expert * Author * Speaker Hall of Fame
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