“All speaking is public speaking, whether it’s to one person or a thousand.” – Roger Love
The greatest speeches in the world have all been delivered with such passion, eloquence, and apparent ease. A good speech can change hearts, inspire hearts, and stir emotions. This is why actually doing one yourself can be very daunting.
Public speaking is a real skill but is not always considered as such when it is thrust upon somebody who may not feel too hot about it. Writing your speech is one thing, but today we are interested in the other, the action of delivering one in a confident manner.
If you are a first-time speaker, or indeed somebody who has spoken many times, but just finds the anxiety of the whole thing very unpleasant, here are some mindful thoughts on how to make the experience a bit easier… and maybe even a bit more enjoyable!
First of all, I find that the less prepared I am, the worse the butterflies are. If I go into a meeting, pitch or public address feeling that I do not have all my bases covered, then nerves are a problem. Freefalling is no fun at all!
Preparation is everything. Being aware that you have the knowledge to deal with questions, know your speech inside out, and have confidence in your ability to handle all of the possible things that could go wrong, is priceless. Of course, this is easier with experience, which is preparation in itself. But it doesn’t become easier by itself.
Going into a situation knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare for the moment should mean that you have addressed everything that is under your control. As for the stuff that you can’t control… well, you can’t control it, so try not to let it worry you!
There are several direct benefits of meditation on your public speaking. Anxiety, when it comes to addressing an audience in any way, is often due to your inner voice getting in your way. You spend days and weeks before the event beating yourself up with speculation. What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not funny? What if something breaks or goes wrong?
Daily meditations in the days leading up to the speech can go a long way to softening those jabs of anxiety.
This practice might also help you feel more relaxed and spontaneous during your speech. This is very attractive to a speaker. The skill of meditation helps to orient you ‘in the moment’. A perfect state for encouraging witty flourishes and reactions.
Everything is easier if you manage to relax. What triggers relaxation for you? Perhaps a pre-speech workout? A hot shower? A stress ball, even? Whatever it is, make sure you use it to enter your speech with your heart pumping at a reasonable pace!
Having said that, these things may not be useful in the moments directly before your speech. So, breathe. Close your eyes, let go of any thoughts of what you are about to do, and breathe slowly and deeply. Concentrate on your breath, and feel your heart slow right down. All your preparation is done, all that matters now is starting from a place of stability and relaxation. Then open your eyes, smile, and walk out to that audience with confidence!
4. Use Your Emotions
Sometimes, if nerves cannot be eradicated, it works better to try and use them.
Although nerves are uncomfortable, they can be useful. The nerves you feel immediately before a speech are a catalyst for the adrenaline that follows. So, don’t wish them all away!
However, as you may experience, too many nerves are crippling. When they are getting in the way, it might be prudent to apply a little knowledge and logic. If it is not your first time, then you know that the nerves are temporary, remind yourself of that. In my experience, they disappear as soon as I am faced with an audience.
What also helps is to focus on the moment beyond the end of your speech. I have heard myself say, ‘It’ll be done in 20 minutes time’, on many occasions, as a measure of self-reassurance. Distracting your feelings in this way can be very helpful.
But whatever nerves you have left, use them to really begin your speech with energy and enthusiasm.
By Chris Thomson
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