Nervous to Speak? Ask a Friend

Nervous Speaker

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.”
—William Arthur Ward (1921-1994)
Author, Educator, Motivational Speaker

Speaking in front of groups? Called on to speak at meetings? Here’s some useful stuff from my book.

The more responsibility you have on the job, or as a business owner, the more opportunities you will have to speak up. Real communication takes place when the speaker connects with a person or group on both a rational and an emotional level. The connection can be broken in one of two ways: one, when the message (content) is wrong and the listener tunes out. The second, more familiar way the connection can be broken is when the speaker’s nervousness shows in ways that are distracting to the listener.

What can you do about nervousness? Once you have written your speech, with help from Coach Mimi), practice is the only way to get comfortable in front of a group. A friend can help with three things:

1. Eye Contact

Everything you’ve learned about making eye contact is true. Focus on one person, for a whole thought. Turn to another person in another part of the room to make another point. Make sure you include everyone in the whole room. Some of the conference rooms you speak in will have long tables and you may be in the middle of the table. You have people on one side and people on the other side, and you’re constantly looking from side to side. Make sure that you spend at least five beats per side – the time of one whole thought. Focus on this side, then switch over and focus on someone else. Be inclusive.

Eye contact conveys credibility, sincerity, involvement and interest in your message and your audience. Next time you watch a speaker, note the quality of their eye contact. Some will focus on the ceiling or the floor, or flit their eyes quickly. How does that make them look? Unsure or nervous? You want to stay focused, and make eye contact — one person at a time. One thought at a time. A friend can be your audience.

2. Body

Don’t let your body be a distraction. You don’t want to look nervous by being hunched over. You want to have energy in your body.

Watch Out for Shifting Hips

Watch the shifting of hips. Men do shifting hips by putting weight on one foot and then the other. They get sort of rhythmical about it. Women do something else. If they wear heals that are too high and uncomfortable they plant a heel on the floor and lift their toes to rest for a moment. If the woman gets nervous and energy starts flowing, she might start “drilling for oil” with that heel which really distracts the audience. And then she shifts and drills on the other side. The way to end all that nervous stuff is to make sure you’re giving out energy through your voice and eyes. Walk forward only when you are motivated, and make your movements purposeful.

Pay Attention to What You’re Wearing

Clothes shouldn’t be distracting. Make sure they fit. Have your friend check you over. You can’t see if your collar is turned up in back, but some nitpicker in your audience will.

3. Voice

Your voice expresses and emphasizes your message. No one likes to listen to the drone of a monotone speaker. You need to project your voice. Vocal characteristics can make or break your presentation.

Your trusted friend will tell you the truth, feel your fears and show you your strengths.

Please call me to get the Summer Special for your marketing speech.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Fearless Presentations The Leader’s Institute

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