Did you know public speaking is people’s #1 fear?
Yes, it’s rated over the fear of death. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld says, “That means people rather be in the coffin than giving the euology.
If you would like to overcome the fear of public speaking and walk into any presentation with confidence, you can.
I’m speaking from experience, so to speak (smile). I know it’s possile because I’ve done it myself and I’ve helped many people actually look forward to – even enjoy – speaking.
A client who’s working on her TEDx talk told me, “The closer the big day gets, the more panicked I get. What can I do to handle the nerves?”
I told her, “If you want to walk in with confidence, put your mind-time to work for you instead of against you. One way to do that is to see public speaking as a sport.”
“What do you mean?”
“You played sports growing up, right? You know that when the game is on the line, there are two kinds of athletes. Those who let their fears win, who step back and say, ‘Don’t give me the ball’ … and those who are determined to win, who step up and say, ‘Gimme the ball.’
I bet you’re a ‘Gimme the ball’ kind of person.”
She laughed and said, “You’re right.”
“So, you know how to be a winner when playing sports. That means you know how to be a winner when speaking in public.”
“Sounds good. But how?”
I shared several ways she could leverage her athletic experience so she can overcome her nerves and walk into her TEDx talk with confidence.
Are you giving an important report? Will you be making an oral proposal to your boss or to a budget committee? Are you preparing a white paper or high-stakes presentation?
Do you want to replace panic with poise? Prepare for that event as if you’re an athlete. Use these three tips to SEE SPEAKING AS A SPORT so you’re in the zone when presenting.
Confidence Comes in CAN’s
Confidence can be defined in two words … “I can.” If you want to feel confident on the big day, concentrate on your CANS instead of your CAN’Ts.
When you go to bed at night, picture and project how you want this event to go. You’re going to be thinking anyway, why not put your imagination to work for you vs. against you by focusing on what you DO want intead of what you DON’T.
Mentally pump yourself up just lke an athlete does before a championship match. “I CAN make a difference for people by sharing my story. I CAN add value by giving action steps people can use. I CAN stay centered by looking at my audience and connecting with them.”
If you drift into doubts, “I CAN’T do this. What if I go blank and forget what I’m supposed to say?” do a pattern interrupt. STOP mid-doubt. No scolding! The more you chastise yourself, the more you practice and imprint the very thing you don’t want.
Instead, repeat your ideal scenario with more intensity. “I CAN inspire people. I CAN deliver a talk I’m proud of. I CAN welcome this opportunity and be grateful for it.”
Every professional athlete visualizes before big games. They know what happens “between the ears” determines whether they win or lose as much as, or even more than, their talent.
Face it. Leading up to the big day you can dwell on what you DON’T want and walk in nervous or dwell on what you DIO want and walk in with confidence. What’s it going to be?
2. Go for a walk/rehearse the morning of your presentation.
Have you been told to practice in front of a mirror? That’s badvice! Practicing in front of a mirror makes you self-conscious, (“How do I look?”) which is the opposite of the stream-of-conscious flow state you want to be in when you speak.
I always go outdoors for a walk-rehearse before presentations to embody my message. It gets me comfortable thinking on my feet when “stuff” happens. For example, “Oops, here comes a skateboarder. Got to dodge him.” I’m learning how to keep my train of thought (vs. lose it) when visually distracted.
Why is this so important?
Public speaking is not just an intellectual activity, it is a physical activity.
We’re not supposed to be “talking heads.” We’re supposed to use our head, heart and hands – just like athletes do – so it’s a fully embodied, wholistic experience.
We’ve all seen speakers who lock their hands onto the lectern and stand there, frozen in place. It’s hard to relate to – and continue to listen to – someone who is an “immovable object” and speaking from the neck up.
Plus, when you stay in one place as a speaker, it’s easy to feel stuck, distant and dissociated from the audience.
Speaking isn’t supposed to a one-way download; it’s supposed to be a two-way interaction.
The best speakers use deliberate movement, meaningful gestures and the entire stage to create a free-flowing energy. They re-live and re-enact their stories so they become one with their message and it comes alive. They achieve a performance flow which is when it becomes FUN for everyone.
Just as athletes don’t walk out onto the field or court straight from the lockerroom and start playing cold … presenters shouldn’t get up from their seat and start speaking cold.
Athletes physically and mentally warm up. They take the court or field and get moving to loosen up, practice their shots and get in the flow of thinks.
It’s smart to go for a walk/rehearse before your talk to practice your speaking shots. Your speaking shots are your opening 60 seconds, your transitions, and your closing 60 seconds. Practicing the key elements of your talk – while moving – gets you mentally and physically warmed up and ready to go. You’ll feel loose and relaxed instead of tense and uptight.
3. Give yourself homefield advantage.
Why does every sports team have a better record at home than away?
It’s because of the “flight, fight or freeze” phenomenon.
In unfamiliar environments, we can’t relax because we don’t know if we’re at risk or in danger. Part of our attention and instincts are on alert because we’re in “hostile terriorty.” .
On familiar turf, we can relax and immerse ourselves in our performance because we feel safe and supported. We’re in “friendly territory” and can focus fully on our performance.
This is why it’s so important to visit your speaking venue in advance. The more familiar you are with it, the more you’ll feel “at home” and the less nervous and anxious you’ll be.
When I speak at conventions, I always arrive early and check out the ballroom the day before. I stand in front and practice my opening and close at full volume. (Remember, we play the way we practice.) I project my voice to all 5 sections (front, middle, back, right side, left side) and fill the room with “Glad to be here, hope you are too” energy.
When I’m introduced the next day, I can take the stage with confidence because I’ve “been there, done that” and I’m in a “Gimme the ball, let’s go” frame of mind.
These are just three of the steps I use to help clients become “public speaking athletes” who look forward to presenting and who are in their element on the stage.
So, what is an important speaking situation you’re preparing for? Is it a report to your boss, board or budget committee> Is it a TEDx talk, webinar or conference presentation?
Championship athletes rise to the challenge and play their best in high-pressure situations. You can do the same.
Just see speaking as a sport and use these tips and you too can overcome nerves, walk in with confidence and deliver a talk that adds value for all involved.