Seven Steps to Take the “eek” Out of Public Speaking

Peggy Kimmey and I recently got connected on LinkedIn. She is a Speaking Coach, and helps people hone their Elevator Pitch and other presentations. She’s hosting a Workshop: “Create Your Intriguing Introduction“, in Manassas, VA on 3/23. You can learn more about it here. 


I thought the below 7 tips from Peggy would be useful to you:


The Seven Steps to Take the “eek” Out of Public Speaking

By Peggy Kimmey

Step 1 – Prepare and Practice
   The more you prepare and the better you know your material, the less you have to be nervous about the content of your speech.  Know the information and practice presenting it – in your car, in front of the bathroom mirror, to your dog or family members.  Are you using presentation tools (PowerPoint, flip chart, etc.)?  Practice with and without them.  Know what you’ll say even if the tools don’t work.  Know what you will skip if the speaker before you goes over time and you only have half the time to speak.  Think of questions you may be asked and how you will respond if someone interrupts you.  

Step 2 – Arrive Early
Plan to arrive early – in addition to the time you allocated for traffic.  Ask how early you can get into the room to setup.  Take time to familiarize yourself with the room, the seating arrangement, where your props will go and how they are viewed from different places in the room.  Make sure your props work.  Have all you materials out or easily accessible – handouts, markers, note paper, pen, etc.  Don’t take time away from your speech or the meeting to try to find something.
Step 3 – Own the Room
   Once you are set up, you are more comfortable with your speaking area than when you first walked in.  Now, go around the whole room – make noise, sing the A-B-C song, flap your arms and act crazy.  Now that you have acted odd in every place in the room, giving your presentation will be much more “normal”.   You’ll know what the acoustics are and whether you need to speak more loudly or softly.  You’ve already heard your voice in the room, so you will not experience the feeling of “What?  Who is that talking – is it me?  I sound funny!” which throws so many people off when they first begin to speak. 

Step – 4 Breathe
   Yes, I know, you’ve been breathing since you were born!  When we get nervous, though, we tense our bodies and take shallow breaths.  By forcing yourself to take 2 or 3 slow deep breaths before you are introduced and as you are taking your place, you will send your body the signal to relax.  You’re saying “Things aren’t as bad as I thought”.  And you will feel and look more relaxed.

Step 5 – Smile
   There is a chemical reaction in your brain when you smile.  Your body relaxes.  You are telling yourself that you don’t need to react in “fight or flight” mode.  Even if you are about to speak on a serious topic, show yourself to be pleasant and open with a smile for your audience.  Smile and shake the hand of the person who introduced you.  Then you can settle into a more serious presence if you need to. 

Step 6 – This Gift 
   You are giving a speech.  You are the first part of that sentence – without “You” it wouldn’t make sense.  “You” are the most important part.  The action is “are giving” – not “making”, but sharing something with the audience that you have spent much time and energy creating.  Appreciate your own efforts and expect others to do the same.  Finally, what you have created, “a speech”.  Not “a PowerPoint Presentation” even if that is the prop you use to share it, but a speech – or better yet, a conversation where you do most of the speaking.  A speech, where both you and the audience share in the experience.

Step 7 – Visualize
   You’ve built the corral around your wild stallion.  You have everything in place.  Now it’s time and it’s up to you.  Your last step to prepare for your speech is to see it as a completed action.  Take a moment to see yourself at the end of your speech.  You are standing in your favorite suit looking sharp.  You have a slight smile on your face because you are pleased with the speech you just gave.  You did a good job and you know it.  You can hear the audience applauding your speech and see smiles on their faces.  They heard your message and they will remember what you’ve said because you kept them engaged and gave them the information that they needed.  How do you feel?  I get the physical sensation of my chest expanding.  I feel more capable and eager to give another speech.  How does it feel for you?  Do you tingle?

   The more you can visualize your speech – beginning to end, using props, answering questions, remembering the content and not depending on notes – the better you will be.  To your mind, this practice in your head is real.  It happened just like you saw and felt it.  Now that you’ve given this speech to this audience once – twice – a dozen times already and they all turned out fantastic, giving it one more time will be a simple matter.  You have all the fences in place to corral those nerves and guide your energy.  You have organized added sizzle, prepared, and practiced your speech. 

My last suggestion is that you relax and have some FUN. 

You can and will do a great job!

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