Most people say they “hate public speaking”, but I believe everyone can get over that with training! HOW a speaker manages and hides Speech Anxiety symptoms from the audience is the topic of this 7-part C.O.N.C.E.A.L. series.
THERE ARE TWO PARTS TO the A in C.O.N.C.E.A.L
- Avoiding Thinking about your speech the-day-of the presentation
- Avoid Apologizing when you make mistakes, and other mistakes handling
Let’s start with Avoiding Thinking about your speech the-day-of the presentation
It’s RARE advice to say STOP THINKING, but Avoiding Thinking about your speech the-day-of the presentation is a fear coping strategy. Many speakers do things that create more nervousness than necessary prior to a speech. I’ve seen speakers telling others “I’m so nervous” or pouring over their notes as if they could improve the speech minutes before stepping onstage. Unfortunately the opposite is true. Instead you are working yourself into a frenzy by focusing on your fears and nervousness. Instead of helping yourself, these behavior will raise the stress-level.
Preparation occurs pre-speech. On-the-delivery-day, preparation time is past and it’s too late to improve your presentation. All you will do is make yourself more nervous if you think about it that day. At the most, the day-of-your speech, perform a short morning speech script review as a final reminder, and maybe a casual run-through. After that I recommend you put everything away and do not think about it at all!
Let’s think about it this way. I liken it to a golfer hitting balls on the day of the golf tournament. While they might warm up doing a couple practice balls, it’s too late to improve their golf performance on game day. The golfers’ skill-development and pre-preparation needs to be done during pre-game practice days.
Speech preparation is like the above golf example. Practice and preparation ahead of time imprints the message into your mind. Your mind will draw from the former practice. On speech day, dwelling on it cannot improve your performance, but it will inflame your nervousness.
Distract yourself in order to take your mind off the anticipated anxiety. Fill your schedule with other distracting activities on speech-day, or force your mind not to think about it by concentrating attention on other tasks. Plan ahead to provide yourself a list of distractions. For added support, re-read the fourth C.O.N.C.E.A.L tip, C for calm-yourself” article for ideas.
Think positively about the coming speech. Experts recommend visualization and self-encouraging confessions. Here are ideas you might say aloud or read to yourself:
- The audience wants me to succeed
- The audience is not my enemy, they are friends
- I feel more nervous than anyone sees. They do not see it. To them I look confident and ready.
- I have practiced, so I am ready and prepared
- I can do this!
- I want to do this because this hard work can help me overcome this fear and make me a more valuable employee (or whatever other real reason you can use).
Prepare your body. Recommendations for the day-of your speech:
- Do a light exercise (i.e., walk the stairs, lift a light weight) to help keep your muscle tension low. Hopefully you exercised fully the day or so before (review the E for Exercise, the fifth C.O.N.C.E.A.L tip).
- Eat a solid meal, but avoid milk and soda. Milk can might cause a sour stomach, and carbonation can create dryness. Consider a piece of sweet hard-candy beforehand to moisturize your mouth.
- Begin to manage your breathing. Once you begin to recognize anxiety starting, consciously keep your breathing rate normal, even if that means actively slowing down your breathing rate. If you breathe too fast, you will speak too fast, and it can cause a vocal shake. Controlling your breathing controls your pace and your clarity, and helps you feel calmer (review the C for calm yourself, the fourth C.O.N.C.E.A.L tip,).
Avoiding thinking about the speech as soon as you enter the speaking room! I strongly recommend speakers avoid thinking about the speech until it’s your turn! I’ve seen speakers telling others “I’m so nervous” or pouring over their notes as if they could improve the speech. Instead of helping, it will raise your stress-level.
As soon as you enter the room where you are going to speak, attempt to avoid talking about your speech or your nervousness. Avoid talking about it all day, if possible. Occupy your mind with things that are unrelated to the actual speech to keep your stress low. Concentrate on other tasks that will take your mind off of your speech. When it is your turn, you should be pleasantly surprised when all your rehearsal returns to your mind and how well you get through the speech.
In conclusion, you should avoid thinking about the speech on delivery day so you can reduce pre-performance anxiety. You can do several things to distract and occupy yourself so that you can be calm on speech day. Next we will cover the second A, how to handle mistakes, and definitely by not apologizing! Please write and let me know how this information is helping you!
ABOUT Michelle Brady – she is a speaker-trainer and a 3-decade public speaking college instructor. She offers speech training through www.SageForwardTraining.com. Reach out to book her at your next event.