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.
Stress is a major cause of energy loss. Between 50 and 70 million Americans have a difficult time sleeping well, and stress is a large part of the problem. While some would say speaking in public is a cause of stress for them, you know that speaking is one of the best ways to promote your business or practice and stress is part of life. We can’t take our minds off that troublesome relationship, our financial woes, a problem that we are trying to solve or a strategy to meet all of the demands placed upon us. For millennia, people have found relief from stress through meditation. Regular meditation fills you with a sense of peace that stays with you long after your meditation ends. You don’t need to be a yogi to meditate. Here are three quick ways to add meditation to your day.
- Stop what you are doing and focus on your breathing. Just follow your breath in and out. If thoughts intrude, let them go and return to following your breath. Five minutes of this will calm you.
- Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a place that represents peace and calm to you. It could be lying on a beach, strolling along a path under the trees, or holding hands with a loved one. Put yourself in the scene in your imagination. Experience it fully, as if you were there. Do this for five minutes, and you will feel refreshed and peaceful.
- Choose a word that has meaning for you, such as “peace,” “calm,” “love.” Repeat it slowly to yourself for several minutes, concentrating on the feeling it creates in you. You will carry the feeling with you long after your meditation ends.
For best results, try to meditate in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted. Meditation doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can do it at your desk while riding public transportation, or when sitting in your living room during a commercial break on television. The key to success is to just do it.