Preparing to Speak
- Know your topic. Whatever preparation you need to do to know your material, do it. Whether it’s reading and taking notes or creating an outline, preparing will minimize the fear that you will not know what to say once you get up in front of people.
- Become familiar with the space you will be in. Visit it if possible. Is it a formal or informal setting? Will you be sitting around a table? Will it be in a big, open room? Will you be on a stage? Will you have a microphone? Will you be outside? Answers to these questions will help you visualize yourself speaking.
- Find out what the audience will be. Are they co-workers or complete strangers? Will they be in casual clothing, uniforms or formal wear? What are their expectations for you?
- Rehearse a few times before the actual speaking engagement. Rehearse in front of a trusted friend; family member; coach; or co-worker. Make sure it’s someone who will give positive, constructive feedback. Rehearse in front of a mirror and rehearse in the location of the speaking engagement if possible.
- Tell at least one trusted confidant who will be in the audience that you are feeling a bit nervous. Ideally this is someone you practiced with. This is your support person or team.
- Prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and spiritually:
- Visualize yourself speaking. See the audience paying attention to you and smiling at you.
- Visualize yourself as confident in front of the group. The audience does not need to know that you are sweating and that your heart is beating faster than normal.
- Visual success but do not expect perfection. The audience does not expect every word articulated perfectly. They will give you a lot of grace and want you to do well.
- Recognize that getting started can be the hardest part. Once you start speaking your heart rate will go down and you will get in the flow of it.
- Manage your negative self-talk. My trick is that each time a negative thought creeps in, I counter it with a positive thought and I write it down on my speaking notes. Here’s what my thought process may look like in the moments prior to my speaking:
As you begin to speak you may feel some of these same negative thoughts creep into your mind. Continue to use the techniques listed above: visualize confidence; smile; and counter the negative self-talk with positive thoughts and messages. Customize the positive comments to fit your beliefs and value system. Making eye contact helps too. Act as if you are simply talking directly to that one person with whom you have eye contact.
After you speak
- Acknowledge yourself!
- Solicit feedback from you support person or team.
- Speak with your coach after the speaking engagement. Share with him or her how it went.
- If possible, videotape the engagement and watch it with your coach or support person.
If you have a set-back
- Try to assess, but not overanalyze, what happened.
- Keep it in perspective. You tried and that is more than some are willing to do. There is always a second chance to try again.
- Regroup and try again. Don’t allow a setback from letting you try again.
My Plan for Improving Public Speaking
- BEFORE SPEAKING….describe your preparation efforts and your plan
- DURING SPEAKING…..what self-talk will I use? Who’s my support network? Etc…
- AFTER SPEAKING….how did it go? How did I feel?
He who would learn to fly one day must learn to stand and walk and climb and dance. One cannot fly into flying. Friedrich Nietzsche