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When we’re nervous for a speech, toast, presentation, or talk, our bias is to memorize the content word-for-word.
We memorize in a valiant effort to avoid screwing up.
Ironically, memorization often has the opposite effect.
When you memorize material, one tiny slip-up can throw you off. You only know the material in one fixed direction, so you're unable to adapt. All it takes is a glitch in the slides, an off-track question from the audience, or a slight stumble in your opener and all of your preparation is out the window.
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The best public speakers don't deliver a speech—they tell a story. They take the audience on a journey.
Create a storytelling structure that is familiar and easy to follow. It's often helpful to be clear and explicit about that structure upfront.
There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars
There are always a few people in the audience who are prone to smiling, nodding, and engaging positively. Their positive engagement kills your anxiety.
At the beginning of your speech, scan the front of the crowd as you hit your opening lines. Identify the few people who smile, make warm ey...
There is so much pent up energy in a room—it often manifests as tension.
You can feel it as a speaker when the audience is stagnant. There’s all this potential energy that needs to be released.
You can dramatically reduce the tension in a room by creating action and movement—by conver...
As a kid, I remember playing a game where parts of the floor are “lava” that you can't touch.
During a speech, I try to play a similar game. I think of my pockets and torso as “lava”—I can't touch them.
This simple framing forces you to get your arms away from your body, gesture broad...
When you're feeling nervous or uncertain, there's a tendency to self-sabotage.
We tell the audience we're nervous, we make fun of ourselves, we make ourselves small physically by crossing our arms and creating a barrier between us and them.
Don't do this. It's okay to be vulnerable, b...
Identify 3-5 speakers you admire.
Go on YouTube and find videos of each one delivering a speech.
Slow down the playback speed and take notes.
Study the following:
Executing power poses can actually create feelings of confidence and power. (The science behind this is now heavily-contested.)
Before your next talk or presentation, find a quiet place, take a few deep breaths, and raise your arms high and wide, triumphantly over your head. Speak a few pos...
We have a tendency to hype up our fears.
Always remember: the worst case scenario really isn't that bad. No matter how it goes, you’ll be just fine. Life will move on.
Plus, the audience is generally rooting for you! They place themselves in your shoes, so they want you to do well. Th...
When we get nervous, our natural tendency is to speed up—to get to the end faster.
To fight it, think about trying to speak on 0.75x speed. It should feel almost uncomfortably slow.
Pause and breathe frequently. The best speakers take long, dramatic pauses (you’ll notice this from you...
Pacing around the room or stage like you're on the phone with your middle school crush isn't helpful.
Take slow, methodical, purposeful steps.
There are people who move to move—and then there are people who move with intention, who are going places.
Be the latter.
Capitalize on every opportunity to practice—both for a specific event and for the skill more broadly.
When practicing for a specific event, start by doing it in private to remove the fear. Use your phone to record and watch your performance. Then transition to practicing in front of an audi...
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