We read a lot about how to speak in public more effectively – once we are on stage. What about the pre-speech period? What about the actions we take on that speech day before we actually step into the limelight?
In my opinion these steps are extremely important and I would like to share seven of them with you. They will help you survive this crucial pre-speech period.
Step 1 – Meet The Tech Guys
In 99% of the cases the speaker starts his/her speech dealing with technical problems. “Can you hear me?” is one of those despicable starting questions.
You should be the first to arrive in the morning. An hour before the event starts. If you arrive just in time make sure you arrive during the last break before your speech is scheduled.
You just have to meet the tech guys before you speak. You have to small-talk with them. Build some sympathetic bridges. These guys work best when they receive a good briefing – directly from you, the speaker.
Step 2 – Talk To The Moderator
Normally, the moderator of any event has received the information about you and your speech beforehand. Nevertheless, it is recommendable to meet this man or that woman in person.
It’s the same as for the tech guys. It’s about positive energy and vibes. You could share a cool personal anecdote with the moderator s/he could whirl into the introduction. When moderators introduce you with a smile, they set the stage positively – for your benefit.
Step 3 – Water up, Coffee Down
The other day I gave a speech where – despite the fact that I was hardly nervous – suddenly my mouth started to dry up. Damn, I thought, I should have drunk more water. Also avoid drinking any coffee on your speech day!
When you feel like going to the restroom all the time, you are ready to speak. Your mouth will stay humid like the rainforest in Borneo.
Step 4 – Last Minute Practice
Stage-fright approaches all of us – with different faces. When we are sitting there in the audience waiting for our speech slot, we hardly listen to the speakers on stage. Drowning in thoughts we nervously go through our own speech. We suddenly become insecure. We think we have forgotten parts of it. Of course, this is only our mind playing tricks on us. We are perfectly fine. We just need something that gives us more security.
I recommend you use the Speech Structure Building as shown in The Seven Minute Star:
- Create that building on a PPT slide;
- fill in the chapter titles for Intro – A, B, C – Closing;
- print it out on a DIN A5 paper;
- and plastify it.
This is your banister of security during the speech day. You can always sneak at it – anywhere: in the audience, in the taxi, in the elevator, … Plus, it looks super professional.
The great benefit of using such a structure and title-based device instead of full text-based or bullet-pointed notes is that you get less nervous thinking about all the content you might forget. You just focus on the overall structure. Much better.
Step 5 – Enter The Stage
The moment has come. The moderator introduces the next speaker – which is you. You have positioned yourself somewhere close to the stage moments before. With a big smile you enter the stage now.
That smile is worth rhetorical gold. It exudes charisma from the first second onward. The audience doesn’t know you yet, but they already know that you are quite a likable character.
Step 6 – The Pause
With your headset perfectly installed thanks to your great relationship with the tech guys you approach the center of the stage. You look at the audience – again smiling. And then… nothing!
You do not start right away. Instead you pause – looking around, waiting. You maybe send out a quick nod to some guys in the third row you talked to during the coffee break. You are waiting for that special moment of absolute silence in the room. Take your time. Audiences love to clear their throats. Audiences love to move on their chairs producing squeaking sounds. Be patient.
Finally, there it is… absolute silence!
Step 7 – The First Sentence
You open your lips and say something totally… unexpected!
In Better Beginnings: How to capture your audience in 30 seconds or in The Seven Minute Star (Step 3: 30 Seconds) you will find valuable advice on how to start your speech differently and with impact.
Congratulations, now you are speaking AND you survived!
Every point in this is gold; especially the ones about the tech guys, The smile and the pause, and my personal weakness, the coffee.
I was recently doing a session that had my stage-fright churning, and I found two additional points to be helpful as well:
1. Eating some small something for lunch even though my stomach had clamped shut
2. Focusing on how the applause at the end would sound, and how after a great delivery I’d be thinking “Wow, what a buzz. I wish I could do that again!”
Thanks, Peter! And great points… 😉