You're waiting your turn to make a speech, when suddenly
you realize that your stomach is doing strange things and
your mind is rapidly going blank. How do you handle this
critical time period?
In all of my speaking classes, students ask me how to
handle public speaking
nervousness, fears, jitters, anxieties - and the physical
symptoms these feelings produce. There is
no single answer; you must prepare by anticipating your
speech mentally, logistically, and physically.
Start by understanding that you'll spend a lot more time
preparing than you will speaking. As a general rule, invest
three hours of preparation for a half hour speech, a six to
one ratio. When you've become a highly experienced
speaker, you may be able to cut preparation time
considerably in some cases, but until then, don't skimp.
Part of your preparation will be to memorize your opening
and closing -- three or four sentences each. Even if you
cover your key points from notes, knowing your opening and
closing by heart lets you start and end fluently, connecting
with your audience when you are most nervous.
Go to the room where you'll be speaking as early as
possible so you can get comfortable in the environment. If
you will be speaking from a stage, go early in the morning
when no one is there and make friends with the stage.
Then, during your presentation, you can concentrate on your
audience, not your environment.
A wonderful preparation technique for small meetings is to
go around shaking hands and making eye contact with
everybody beforehand. For larger meetings, meet and
shake hands with people in the front row at least, and some
of the people as they are coming in the door. Connect with
them personally, so they'll be rooting for your success. We
as speakers are rarely nervous about individuals, only when
faced with the thought of an audience. Once you've met the
audience or at least some of them, they become less scary.
It's totally natural to be nervous. Try this acting technique.
Find a private spot, and wave your hands in the air. Relax
your jaw, and shake your head from side to side. Then
shake your legs one at a time. Physically shake the tension
out of your body.
Try not to sit down too much while you're waiting to speak. If
you're scheduled to go one an hour into the program, try to
sit in the back of the room so that you can stand up
occasionally. It is hard to jump up and be dynamic when
you've been relaxed in a chair for hour. (Comedian Robin
Williams is well known for doing "jumping jacks" before
going on stage to raise his energy level.) Sitting in the back
also gives you easy access to the bathroom and drinking
fountain. There's nothing worse than being stuck down front
and being distracted by urgent bodily sensations.
Patricia Fripp is an award-winning speaker, sales trainer,
and executive speech coach who delights audiences,
electrifies executives who speak, and transforms sales
teams. Meetings and Conventions magazine calls Patricia
"one of the country's 10 most electrifying speakers." For
more information on her speaking schools; executive
speech coaching; books, CDs, and DVDs visit:
http://www.fripp.com or contact Patricia: 1-800-634-3035
Patricia Fripp offers this article on a nonexclusive basis. You
may reprint or repost this material as long as Patricia
Fripp's name and contact information is included.
PFripp@Fripp.com, 1-800-634-3035, http://www.fripp.com