Woman Walking

Strategies to Manage Speaker Nerves

Woman Walking Mark Twain once said, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” No matter how seasoned or under-seasoned you are as a speaker, when it comes to making presentations, Mr. Twain assures us nerves are just part our reality. Whether you are speaking to two people at a networking event, or two thousand as a keynote speaker, here are three strategies to help you get out of your head and on to the stage confident, poised and powerful. 1. Exercise…according to research from Dartmouth’s Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory, “the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms.” So rather than tweaking your script again, spend a half-hour going for a walk or doing some cardio and release some serotonin – also known as the happy hormones. 2. Give yourself a running start…memorize your first three lines. Many public speakers cite getting started as their biggest stumbling block. You can short circuit your monkey mind by committing your first three lines to memory and reprogram your jitters into excitement about participating in the day’s event. 3. Invite a dialogue instead of a monologue. Plan a presentation to engage with the audience on a particular topic rather than conducting a lecture where only the speaker’s opinion and contributions are relevant. Early in your talk, perhaps in the first minute, ask the audience a question that requires a response, or take an informal opinion poll and get some feedback. This type of audience engagement will allow them to better retain the information you share. It will also give you a chance to breathe, take a sip of water, and manage your stress level.

The Speakers “10 Minutes to Spotlight”

On your mark, get set…

timeforactionIf you are like me, and are working the room where you will be speaking up until the last minute, be sure to take a private moment before you go onstage. It is a critical step to take the time to center yourself and prepare for your presentation. Find a quiet room, if one isn’t available, go to the bathroom. Take a deep breath and let all your distractions and nerves flow out of you as you exhale. If you, like me, need to review your notes and remind yourself about your key points, this is the time to do so. If I get rattled onstage, it is almost always because I went out without taking the time to ground myself. To make sure you get your moment alone, set your phone alarm to vibrate about 10 minutes before the event starts and keep the phone in your pocket where you can feel it vibrate. If it’s not possible to carry your phone, the other option is to have an assistant or friend watching the clock for you. Ask her (or him) to tap you 10 minutes before the start time, to ensure you have time to wrap up a conversation and find that quiet spot. Be sure to pick out that quiet spot right after you arrive at the event. Want to know how you can relieve your speaking anxiety and get grounded? Here are some tips that I use and I share with the speakers I train:

8 Tips for Releasing Speaking Anxiety:

  • Deep breathRemember to Breathe: Anxiety tightens the muscles in the chest and throat. Deep breathing, on the other hand, sends oxygen to the lungs and brain and expands the throat and chest, promoting relaxation. Before going joining the audience, use the deep breathing and as you approach the platform, take a deep breath and relax. Also, remember to breathe through your nose – mouth breathing will strain the muscles in your chest and throat.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dry mouth is common when people are nervous. Trying to speak with “cotton mouth” can be painful for you and your audience. Take a quick sip before going onstage and keep water nearby during your speech, just in case. Taking a drink of water during your presentation can also provide a pensive pause if you happen to lose your place or need a moment to regain your composure.
  • Release Excess Nervous Energy: Light physical exercise, walking, jogging in place for a second, or do a few dance steps; these are all good ways to deal with the jitters. If you are really nervous just before presenting, flex your calves or ball up your fists. All these physical releases can help you refocus your energy and not fidget in front of your audience.
  • Focus on Gratitude: Make a quick mental gratitude list to keep you focused on the positive while you are doing the deep breathing and grounding before speaking.
  • Visualize Success: Focus on your success and the outcome. Remember, you care about what you are saying, you have put in the time and effort and you will be fabulous!
  • Goal 20Review Your Key Points: Review your key points and focus on the core goals and reasons for your speaking that day.
  • Love Your Listeners: Thinking of your audience as hostile or as the enemy is negative thinking and will put you on the defensive. Come from the place of thinking “my audience is friendly”. Believe they are there because they are interested in what you have to say. You get back what you put out – and this adage is very apparent in public speaking. If you want your audiences to love you, love them first!
  • Show Confidence: The audience will never know if you are nervous or not. Never start your speech by admitting to the audience you are nervous as this puts them in the position of “taking care of you” and takes away from your status as a professional and an expert in your field.

Remember that everyone has some level of anxiety before speaking; even the top professional speakers have some nerves but they have mastered how to overcome the nerves and use them. Use the tips above to help you to relieve the anxiety and to be the speaker you want to be. Looking to master your speaking anxiety? Contact me today! Happy Speaking – You are Fabulous!

Speakers Tell Stories like an Artist Painting a Canvas

Artist painting canvasGreat speakers are the ones that are also great storytellers. All great storytellers are also great artists when it comes to their craft. Storytellers, like artists, are painting pictures with words instead of paint for their audiences. The storyteller starts with a blank canvas and starts painting with their words so the audience “sees” in their mind’s eye what the speaker is telling them. At the conclusion of the story, the listeners will have the whole “picture” from the speaker. Great stories will affect the listeners in a variety of ways; intellectually, emotionally and even physically. Finding the keys to the listeners’ minds and hearts is the first step in creating a memorable speech. As the speaker paints the words on the minds and hearts of their audience they are connecting with the listeners on a variety of levels. Professional speakers know that laying the groundwork for their speech is crucial to getting their point across. They will sometimes spend hours doing research and tweaking their stories and speech to create just the right picture for their listeners. These speakers know the steps leading up to a stellar ending. Starting with the end in mind and crafting the speech to cover the storytelling basics, speakers follow a general pattern that they use over and over again, with minor variations.

Star Maker Speaker Steps to Crafting a Story:

  1. Steps up businessStart with the background
  2. Rough in the outline
  3. Add color and interest
  4. Have a few surprises
  5. Use contrast
  6. Fill in the details
  7. Have a strong conclusion

Using the above steps, review all of your stories that you use for your speeches to see if they follow these steps. Do your stories meet these artistic criteria, touching your listeners mentally and emotionally? If you aren’t sure if your storytelling is touching all the points, ask some trusted friends who have heard you speak for feedback. When you aren’t getting the results you want from your speaking, it may be time to seek some assistance. Need some assistance taking your speaking and storytelling skills to the next level? Book a Strategy Session.

Guest Speaker Etiquette

At a national convention, I attended recently, I had the opportunity to observe closely two well-known speakers and their behavior over the weekend.

The first speaker:

Business woman checking inFrom the time she arrived to the time she left her behavior was courteous and gracious to everyone. From the hotel desk clerk to the CEO of a large corporation, the event coordinator, and everyone in between… all were treated with courtesy, even when things went wrong. Here are a few things that I knew about and observed:

  • Her luggage was late arriving
  • Her handout materials were delivered to the wrong event room
  • The speaker before her went way over the allocated time, so this speaker’s time was reduced by 10 minutes
  • The wireless microphone battery went dead during her speech
  • Someone knocked over a tray of water glasses just as she was making a key point

She handled all of these glitches with grace, poise, kindness, and courtesy; which left a lasting positive impression on me. After she spoke and the session ended, people flocked to her vendor table to speak to her and buy her products.

Angry Business ManThe second speaker:

At the same event there was also a good example of what not to do when invited to be a guest speaker. I also observed another well-known speaker scheduled for an afternoon session. Here are some things I observed:

    • He swore at the desk clerk because his room wasn’t ready when he arrived
    • He didn’t mingle with any of the other attendees
    • He showed up a few minutes before his presentation
    • He was curt and rude to the event coordinator before going on stage
    • When he got up to speak, he spent a few minutes bashing the venue and the coordinator before getting on with his presentation, which went over his allocated time slot by 15 minutes. (He ignored the event MC’s attempts to have him wrap up his talk)
    • After he spoke he was backstage spewing negative comments and a few obscenities about the event
    • When the session ended, he was at his vendor table where very few people approached and he made almost no sales
    • As he loaded up to leave the event a short time later, he was loudly complaining about his lack of sales

One thing I am sure of is that several other people were also observing these speakers behaviors and actions, and probably talked about the different impressions they each left on us. What impression do you want to make as a guest speaker? Some simple etiquette guidelines for a guest speaker. Some of these tips are also good for event and meeting planners to consider adding into a guest speaker contract too.

Star Maker Guest Speaker Etiquette Tips:

  • Be sure to give the event coordinator all your speaker info, headshot, talk information promptly and as far in advance as possible.
  • Show up for your speech at least 30 minutes early, allow extra time for traffic delays if needed.
  • Let the meeting planner or designated contact know when you arrive at the venue.
  • Contact the meeting planner immediately if you have any delays in getting to the venue.
  • Test the microphone and all equipment before the event starts and before you start speaking.
  • Take the time to know your audience before you speak.
  • Be respectful of the people who ask you to speak. Berating or blaming anyone for issues with equipment or other glitches at the event will not reflect well on you, the speaker.
  • As a guest speaker your behavior is being observed at all times, by many people and will be talked about, so be a positive influence, polite and respectful to everyone.
  • Never overindulge in drinking before, during or after speaking.
  • Keep your speech within the allotted time, no more, no less.
  • Be flexible with your speech based on how the schedule progresses; be prepared as you may need to cut back or add on as the event timing unfolds.
  • Give valuable information and don’t over promote your products from the platform.
  • Be a part of the event experience, instead of just delivering your speech and immediately leaving. Network, attend other sessions if it is a multi-session event, visit with people.

If you want to be invited back or booked as a speaker, make sure that on and off the stage you are setting the right tone. It’s too bad that the second speaker left a bad impression off stage. It is not good business or good manners, and those who are experienced in selecting guest speakers are looking for the speaker that brings the most overall value. Be the guest speaker that makes a great all-around impression. Find other suggestions on how to be a speaker HERE

Copyright© 2014 Elizabeth Bachman, San Francisco, California. All Rights Reserved.

Woman speaker pointing at flip chart graph

Using Props When Speaking

Want tWoman speaker pointing at flip chart grapho enhance your public speaking? Using props can be very effective when done right, resulting in an enhanced presentation. The word “prop” is a shortened version from the term “theatrical property”, which refers to objects used by actors in a play, or in this case, a speaker telling a story to engage an audience. In my long history in both Opera and Theater, I have firsthand knowledge of the dos and don’ts of using props. Props have been used to enhance storytelling since the dawn of time. Props can be as simple as a chair, or picture, food, beverage, trophy or as intricate as a PowerPoint presentation, video,… you get the idea, right? Using items to enhance your speaking can be very beneficial by adding memorable visuals and moments, or it can backfire by distracting the audience or even offending the audience.

Props Can:

  • Laptop and microphoneMake a point concrete
  • Have an emotional impact
  • Focus the audience’s attention and interest
  • Be effective metaphors
  • Inject humor into a presentation
  • Be memorable
  • Be unexpected

My client Shannon talks about defeating one’s inner monsters, then hands out monster finger puppets to the crowd. It’s both humorous and memorable. Here are some of my expert tips on Dos and Don’ts of using props when speaking.

10 DOs for Using Props

Word Goal DO: Test Your Props and make sure they work Thoroughly test your prop before your presentation. It is the best way to ensure it works when under pressure in front of an audience. DO: Keep Props hidden until needed Visible props can distract an audience and spoil their effectiveness. Keep them hidden by a cover or behind a table or screen. DO: Have a backup in case the prop/PowerPoint doesn’t work Having a backup of any PowerPoint is a must. You should also have a backup plan in case the prop doesn’t work, disappears, or breaks. DO: Use props that are memorable Props are to enhance what you are speaking about. When your prop is memorable it will keep your key point in your audiences mind long after your presentation. DO: Make sure the prop is relevant (appropriate) for the topic It’s great to use a prop to emphasize a point, but don’t confuse the audience. If the prop is too unusual, the same color as your outfit, or relies on words that one can’t see from the back of the room, it will detract from your message. DO: Make sure everyone can see the prop clearly Have a prop that is large enough to be visible to everyone in the room. If you have a large audience, make sure there are screens where the picture of the item can be projected so everyone can see it. DO: Practice with the props several times – till you’re comfortable using them Practice, practice, practice! For a great presentation you will want to be able to use the prop smoothly and not fumble with it on stage. Props are there to enhance your message, not distract you with worry about how to make it function. DO: Be creative with your props Use an everyday item in an unusual way or something that would be unexpected. DO: Put the prop away so it doesn’t become a distraction Once you are done using a prop make sure it is out of sight or off to the side far enough not to be a distraction or a tripping hazard. DO: Have props available after the presentation for a closer look when appropriate Props that are products/items that are being sold should be available for the audience to look at after the presentation.

5 Don’ts for Using Props When Speaking:

man juggling itemsDon’t leave the prop where it will distract the audience or be in your way You want the audience’s attention to be on you, the speaker, not on the prop which has largely served its purpose. Leaving a prop in the way so your movements are hampered, or even worse, so you could trip over it, is a mistake that professional speakers don’t make. Don’t use a bunch of different props so you end up looking silly Using the right amount of props to emphasize a point is good, using too many props can make you look more like a juggler in a circus act than a professional speaker. Don’t use props that can hurt people Using items that can hurtle into an audience, hit someone or damage their clothing is a negative on many levels. Don’t use props that Offend or Outrage your audience Ask yourself if your prop is going to offend your audience or make them angry? If so, don’t use it. The last thing you want is a hostile audience. If you are unsure, ask a trusted speaking advisor. Don’t pass props around – it becomes a distraction during the presentation Passing around your props, products, brochures, handouts or other items after you start speaking can be very distracting, noisy and often times annoying to your audience. Using props to enhance your presentations is an excellent way to make your presentation unforgettable. Copyright© 2014 Elizabeth Bachman, San Francisco, California. All Rights Reserved.