Rather than becoming deflated after botching a speech, recognize and fix your mistakes to become a stronger speaker next time around.
Start by analyzing your technique. Objectively review a recording of your failed speech, or ask a trusted colleague who heard your presentation to give honest feedback. Scrutinize body language, vocal tone and energy level. Identify words that needed more emphasis and ideas that needed more explanation.
In addition to noting what you did wrong, note what you did well. Build on your effective techniques and find a way to use any bad habits to your advantage.
Example: If you utter too many filler words, “ums” and “uhs,” practice pausing and being silent instead. That will make you appear thoughtful.
— Adapted from “How to Recover From a Disastrous Speech,” George Dixon, Presentation Magazine, http://www.presentationmagazine.com.
Giving a presentation or speaking in public can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s OK to be nervous. However, you can take steps to build your public speaking confidence.
If you find yourself panicking before you present, remember one important rule: Never apologize for being nervous! Apologizing in advance for your nerves undermines your credibility and sends a subconscious message to your audience that you are lacking confidence in yourself and the message you’re trying to share.
Even worse is apologizing for being underprepared. No one in the audience needs to know that you had to step in and present on another person’s behalf or that you were so busy you prepared at the last minute.
Furthermore, if you confess that your presentation isn’t good because of a lack of preparation, your audience members could resent that you are wasting their time with a bad presentation.
Be direct about any miscues or stumbles, and move right on. Attempting to endear yourself to the audience by revealing and apologizing for your last-minute preparations almost always backfires. Don’t do it.
Stage fright doesn’t just occur in your head. Sometimes it’s the physical symptoms of your nervousness that cause you the most trouble—and reveal your anxiety to your audience. Marjorie Brody, one of America’s most accomplished speakers and speaking coaches, cites seven major forms of physical stage fright … and 14 ways to cope with them.
For dry mouth:
- Avoid dairy products, soda and alcoholic beverages for an hour or so before you speak.
- Lightly coat your teeth with petroleum jelly. That will keep your lips from sticking to your teeth.
- As an emergency measure against oral dryness, bite the tip of your tongue. That will help you to salivate.
- Drink room-temperature or warm water—with lemon, if available. Ronald Reagan frequently did that before delivering a major speech.
For sweaty hands or body:
- Use talcum powder or cornstarch on your hands or body to absorb excess moisture.
- Carry a handkerchief—but use it only when you really must.
- For blushing or breaking into red splotches when nervous:
- Women should wear pink or red colors. A red tie and strong, dark suit colors help for men.
- Women should wear high necklines.
- Use humor to release endorphins—natural proteins that can exert a calming effect on the brain and relieve blushing.
For shaky voice:
- Make a concentrated effort to project your voice to the back row of your audience. Louder, more forceful projection will cut down on the vocal wobble.
For shaky hands:
- Gesture—but use small gestures and avoid jerky or wild movements.
For shaky legs or knocking knees:
- Move about the platform or circulate in the room.
For rapid heartbeat:
- Breathe deeply.
- Avoid caffeine before speaking.
— Adapted from Speaking Your Way to the Top, Marjorie Brody, Allyn and Bacon, http://vig.pearsoned.co.uk.
If you still are plagued by fear of public speaking, re-examine your beliefs and rid yourself of the following anxiety-inducing misconceptions:
- “I have to be perfect.” No speech is flawless. Replace unrealistic expectations with a firm commitment to doing the best you can.
- “I will look foolish if I make a mistake.” Don’t forget: Your purpose in speaking is to give your audience something of value, such as information, motivation or inspiration. If you concentrate on meeting your listeners’ needs and focus less on yourself, you will be more effective.
- “I am not good enough.” Stop serving as your own worst critic; that leads you to project a critical attitude onto your audience, and you will act as if your listeners are criticizing your presentation or expecting you to fail. Expect that they want you to succeed, because they do.
— Adapted from “Help for a Shaky Voice,” Susan Berkley, The Voice Coach Newsletter, www.greatvoice.com.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cayusa
Happy Friday! I came across this video while doing some research and thought I’d share it with you. It’s a video produced by Spoken Impact and offers a humorous viewpoint on public-speaking anxiety, an issue so many people deal with. I hope you enjoy it!
What are your best tips for overcoming your nerves when you are presenting to a group? Share your comments below.
As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m a big fan of TED.com as a source for public speaking inspiration. I’ve watched dozens of videos on the site, but today I have a new favorite. Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts” talk is impressive for all the traditional reasons: She’s poised, confident and articulate. She connects with the audience. Her presentation is well-organized and easy to follow.
But the main reason I am sharing the video here on the American Speaker Blog is because I know that many people who suffer from glossophobia (fear of public speaking) are introverts. And if you’re an introvert who struggles with public speaking, this truly is a can’t-miss talk:
In the speech, Cain mentions introverted leaders who appealed to their followers—at least in part—because they took on leadership roles despite a natural aversion to the spotlight. People like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Gandhi. Their genuineness was apparent and drew people to their messages.
The same is true for introverted speakers. Public speaking is an act of leadership, after all. If you’re an introvert who feels uncomfortable on stage, don’t fret: Think of that discomfort as an asset. Your audience will recognize and appreciate that you’re not presenting because you love to hear your own voice, but rather because your message is important enough to lure you out of your comfort zone.
That was certainly true for Cain. As she says in her talk, public speaking does not come naturally to her. And yet, according to TED’s owner Chris Anderson, her talk “smashed” the site’s records for number of views in the first week.
What tips do you have for introverted speakers?