I’m nervous and think, “This 90-minute class will never end.”
But I’m done in 5 minutes!
There I stand, with 40 college students looking at me. I know I have nothing else to say. They know I have nothing else to say. And my entire body breaks out into a sheen of sweat.
Had I not signed a contract to teach this class I might not be a speaker and communication consultant now as CEO of Speak For Yourself®! I am forced to show up at Richland College every Tuesday and Thursday for 16 weeks. That’s 32 class sessions in case you didn’t do the math.
It was a powerful lesson that I learned about practice and perseverance.
Effective speakers/teachers/communicators make it look easy.
I warn all of my fabulous clients that speaker anxiety is part of the game of speaking. You won’t get rid of it. In fact, you want that adrenaline edge. You learn how to dance with that demon and use that extra energy in a positive vs. negative way.
And some of those demon-dance steps include practice, perseverance, time, rinse and repeat.
I taught at Richland College for 10 years. The first class of each semester (and all my classes) lasted the full 90 minutes!
One of my coping mechanisms then and now (I still can get hot!) … I wear cotton.
Just 20 minutes into my Speak For Yourself® Workshop in New Jersey…
… an attendee shuffles into the room. It’s not a big room. Everyone stops, as do I, to let him walk in front of me, and the group, to find a seat.
You know the beginning of your presentation is crucial. That’s when you build credibility with your audience, gain their attention, set out your goals, get their buy-in.
This guy misses that train. I stop him – right in the middle of the room – and say, “Hey – I’m going to sit down and let you teach this class!” And I find a seat, leaving this guy center stage.
Note: This maneuver can get you into trouble. It’s edgy. But I was NOT going to leave him up there for more than a few seconds. Reasons FOR doing this: everyone is distracted and you, the speaker, need to address the distraction. At this moment, no one is listening to you anyway.
From my seated position I ask, “What’s your name?” He replies, standing in the middle of the room, “Bill Cutler.”
I pause and respond, “Bill, thank you for founding this company in 1977. You are the reason we are here today. It’s your genius and your tenacity that got your business to its international status during this past 40 years!”
How do you really screw up as a communicator?
Not doing your pre-intel on your audience.
If the ship misses the harbor, it’s rarely the harbor’s fault. Whether you are speaking to your investors, your team, chatting at a cocktail reception, or sending an email – do your homework. Find out who they are, what they do, what matters to them. You won’t hit any icebergs and you will reduce your speaker anxiety.
Speaking of ships, when this tardy attendee says his name my credibility and trust in that room could have hit an iceberg. By doing some homework ahead of time I avoid a Titanic Moment. He looked different than his website photo, but (thank you Lord) I did know his story.
You have practiced your delivery and you know what your audience wants/needs to hear.
All critical for your success on the platform.
BUT – What haven’t you done? What often goes missing?
Your introduction. What the meeting organizer says about YOU just before you jump on stage.
Recently I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santé Fe, NM. One entire wall exhibited picture frames that she liked to use for her art.
This wall, in a small museum, was devoted to frames? Not her art?
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Sante Fe, NM
Of course. O’Keeffe understood that the picture frame mattered. It could enhance or detract from the art itself.
The same principle applies to your presentations. The way you get introduced frames the way you are perceived. Why leave this to chance?
🎤 Your homework
Write your own introduction and email it to the meeting planner. Bring an extra copy as well, in case the emcee loses it (happens a lot).
🎤 Your payoff
Less speaker anxiety.
One client who speaks across the country told me, “Karen, having a great introduction sets the stage in such a better way for me. It calms my nerves, and I start off with more power. It’s one of the best takeaways from working with you.”
Stay tuned for tips on how to write clever and fun introductions.
You are not alone in dealing with public speaking nervousness. As CEO of Speak For Yourself® I have worked with 100s of clients from a variety of industries on this issue.
Over time I’ve written a couple of books on communication and selling and many articles on speaker anxiety.
Today “13” is your lucky number! My new e-book is a compilation of our top 13 short and strategic articles covering all angles of how to handle the fear of speaking once your name is called out, the crowd is applauding and you’re centerstage.
You’ll enjoy and gain usable strategies to get your nerves to work for you rather than against you.
I laugh with my clients when I tell them I’ll be their “ledge whisperer” on this issue. And I hope to be that same ledge-whisperer for you.
➜ If you’d like your free copy of this e-book send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with “Speaker Anxiety” in the Subject Line.
Breathe, enjoy and read this book.
You’ll get off that ledge and on to your next stage, boardroom or team meeting.
And you don’t even have to do a squat, burpee or a jumping jack.
“A study in Cell Reports Medicine showed that just five minutes of breathwork each day for about a month could improve mood and reduce anxiety,” reports Richard Sima in The Washington Post.
This report further claims that breathwork benefits may be larger than mindfulness meditation using the same amount of time.
A Huge Assist for Speaker Anxiety
One of the most significant issues facing our Speak For Yourself® clients is getting over stage fright. The outcome of this study, helpful in any nerve wracking situation, can apply when you’re giving a speech, on a panel, recording a video …
Participants: 108 adults, randomly controlled. They did this breathwork at home following video directions.
Activity: Researches compared 3 different 5-minute breathwork exercises. Some were deliberate guided breathing in various ways. Some did mindfulness meditation where participants observed their breathing but did not try to control it.
Results: “After 28 days, participants in both the mindfulness meditation and breathwork groups reported having more positive feelings and fewer negative ones compared with before they began their respective practices.” Both groups reported reduced feelings of anxiety. (WAPO)
“That’s not bad for five min/day,” said David Spiegel, an author of the study. “It seems that practicing some control over your respiration is a kind of entry into one way of controlling your autonomic activity.”
The Accumulation Effect: These positive effects did take time to kick in. The more the participants spent doing this breathwork, the better they felt each successive day.
The ROI for you
When you get anxious you breathe faster. By doing this breathwork you can control and relax your physical state and slow down your breathing.
Can you take a few minutes to control your breathing, connect with your body and encourage it to deal with what you want to deal with… like your upcoming presentation?
Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Increase the number of seconds and repeat and repeat.
Are you busy “doing” vs “being”? (OK – rather zen-ish but think about it.)
Photo: by Karen Cortell Reisman @ Barcelona Park Guell
Did you learn in grade school that when you give a presentation you must “act” a certain way?
Going full Shakespeare
Here’s what we see with our Speak For Yourself® clients: When you stand up to deliver your message you transform! The real you goes missing and you go full Shakespeare. Or, conversely, you become muted.
Where did “you” go?
The best mental exercise to sound like yourself at the lectern & reduce performance anxiety
Think about a friend that you meet with to just hang out and talk.
What’s the location? Where are you when you have these chats?
What are you drinking? (Doesn’t have to be alcoholic.)
Some recent client responses:
Person: His brother. Watering hole: A campsite at their 700 acre family ranch. Drink: Blanton’s Bourbon
His mother. Back porch by the pool. Iced tea with lime and mint.
Her husband. Their Crested Butte house on the deck – drinking chilled dry Grey Goose martini.
When you are giving a speech imagine you’re talking to your buddy, in your favorite hang-out location, sipping on your drink of choice.
THAT’S the voice and tone you want to project at your board meeting, panel, or quarterly townhall.
Fill in these blanks and add to our blog comments. Picture that set up at your next event. You will sound conversational and like you.
So, tonight when I’m being interviewed as a “Local Legend” of National Speakers Association – N. TX Chapter I’m going to imagine I’m with my husband, sitting on the porch of our Star Ranch, sipping Glenlivet neat.
PS: check out our new website! www.speakforyourself.com