Yesterday I delivered and educational protion to my toastmasters club. The topic at hand was “Dealing with Nervousness“. When I prepared for this session I researched and thought about what to present. I quickly came to the realization that we each deal with nervousness differently and the best thing to do is to present my personal experience and encourage others to fond out what works for them. And so whenever I need to prepare a speech or will be in a public forum speaking I take these steps to ensure that I transform the nervous energy into one that works for me and not against me:
1- I prepare my speech before hand taking the time to think about my introduction and my closing carefully as well as the points I want to make. I especially focus on my opening and closing because of their importance to a speech.
2- I get to know my audience and cater my speech to their interests. I also make sure that I am using language and styles that work for that audience and that I am not talking at them but with them.
3- I like to know the place I am speaking in, and so if I am unfamiliar with it I try to visit the space beforehand and if that is not possible I arrive very early to check it out. Once I know the physical space I visualize my use of the space and where I want to [position my self for maximum effect.
4- PRACTICE: I practice at home, in front of a mirror, with a voice recorder, in taxis … anywhere and everywhere I can. The more practice I get in the more comfortable I am with my material and the less I have to worry about stumbling over my words.
5- Just before a speech I sing. I sing out loud and get my energy out that way. It helps me breathe, it entertains me and those around me (especially since I cant sing to save my life), and it sets the tone for me. But here I would recommend that you do what works for you, stretching, exercise, breathing, walking, shaking… there are many things to do just before a speech that can help you release the nervous energy. Experiment with what works to your benefit.
6- Once up and in front of the audience I take a deep breath and look at the audience before I start, some people in toastmasters call this the whispered ah, make sure its not a noticeable sigh though.
7- I’m ready and so I start my speech.
8- When speaking I sometimes use a mind map instead of notes – if you do have to use notes make sure its note cards that are numbered and with little text on each one so you aren’t reading but rather remembering points and talking to the audience.
9- When I am preparing a speech and especially when I am delivering I I always keep in mind that no one knows what I am going to tell them so no one knows I’ve made a mistake if I do make one. This means I don’t get hung up and freeze if I maker a mistake… I just keep going.
10- Finally, I have FUN and I make sure that the audience enjoys my presentations too, no matter how serious they are.
I’ve been speaking at toastmasters for seven years and this formula works for me. Sometimes I skip a step or two (like the singing). But this is my formula, this works for me. So why then am I telling you all this? Because with time, experience and experimentation you too can find the formula that works best for you.
Don’t let nervousness conquer you, channel the energy by breathing, singing, dancing, shaking or however works, learn to enjoy speaking and have fun.