Three Secrets of Calm Public Speaking

After every talk that I do there are as many questions about speaking technique as there are about the actual content. One of the most interesting is "How do you stay so calm?". Partly this is just a question of practice, but there are also some specific techniques that make this much easier. Here are three of them, techniques that anyone can master:

Prepare a Backup "Unplugged" Version. Some stress is always caused by the fear that there will be technical problems with the presentation. No matter how many backup copies of the presentation you have and no matter how many tests that you have done before the show the projector can still fail or your laptop suddenly starts to misbehave. One way to avoid this stress altogether is to prepare a backup "unplugged" version that you can do using just a whiteboard, a flipchart or even nothing. You should create a minimal version with the essential content and make a list of the stories you will tell and the visuals you will draw. Practice the unplugged version and keep a copy of the notes in your pocket. It's more impressive when you do the unplugged show without notes, but use them if you feel that you need to; that way your stress will be much lower.

Practice Speaking Out Loud. Find a place where you can practice your talk or presentation speaking out loud, preferably at normal volume but at least audibly. For some people this can be difficult but there is always a way. You can, for example, often practice while you are driving to the gig. Speaking out loud helps you to remember your content because of the production effect. It also has the effect of increasing your familiarity with the material. Some people hear their own content for the first time when they present it in front of an audience. This will sound unfamiliar and create more stress. For the same reason your practice should be as like the real thing as possible, so using a monitor screen and timer in front of you, a clicker in your hand and your backup notes in your pocket.

Visualize Your Stories. Your talk or presentation should be built around a small number of narrative episodes, both to make it easier to remember and easier to follow. When you are talking about something you experienced personally you don't need to memorize all the details because you can recall them at need. For episodes where you don't have a personal experience you can create that by visualizing the scene in your head. If you are describing something that happened try to find out what the people, places and things looked like and construct a visualization that you can use to recall the details. By recalling visualizations you remember ideas rather than words, so your talk is more natural and persuasive.

There are many more techniques that you can use to make your speaking both more compelling and easier to deliver, but these three tips should help you to be more confident and calm, especially in the critical opening minute when tension and attention are both highest.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching

If you would like one-to-one coaching to master speaking at any level, especially where you have little time for preparation, or you would like a group workshop for several people you can contact Andrew Hennigan through speaker@andrewhennigan.com or on 0046 73 089 44 75.  Face-to-face coaching is available most of the time in the Stockholm area. Remote coaching through Skype is available anywhere.

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