Speaking with Confidence: Managing Your Butterflies

Mimi_Speaking_Jan Blog

2015 Resolution: “I will put myself out there more to grow my business.” Is this your resolution?

As a professional, you have many opportunities to speak in front of groups of people. This could be THE year you do it!

You may have put it off because. . . it’s scary! Research shows public speaking is the number one fear of people. Death is number five. So when you say, “I’d rather die than go up in front of the room,” it has the ring of truth.  Almost everyone experiences some degree of nervousness when they have to be a “speaker,” whether it’s a formal presentation in front of a group, presenting information to one decision maker, or being called on in a meeting to answer a question. You feel your heart pounding; your throat constricts, your face feels hot and you’re “on.” For most people this feeling will never go away completely. You may never truly banish the butterflies; the best you can do is “manage” them to fly in a straight line.

Here are some tips to do just that.

We worry about nervousness, but the body produces extra energy at moments of perceived danger, which is normal and good. In primitive times, that energy saved us from wild beasts by enabling us to run faster than we thought possible. We’ve all been awed by tales of moms who experience super-human energy and become strong enough to lift an auto off their suffering child with their bare hands. But that same energy in front of a group can come out as nervousness, which is distracting to the listeners.

The rule is:  it’s okay to be nervous, as long as it doesn’t show. How do we hide our knocking knees and quivery voice from our audience? Instead of pushing down your energy, learn to release it. Put more energy behind your message through the five channels of your body. They are eyes, hands, voice, feet and body.

This month we’ll look at the eyes and hands.  Next month, we’ll focus on voice, feet and body.

  • Eyes – the most important channel to give out your energy and your message. Eye contact conveys credibility, sincerity, interest and involvement with your message and your audience. Don’t flit your eyes – it makes you look nervous. Stay with one person for a complete thought; then switch to someone in another part of the room.
  • Hands – You can’t plan what to do with your hands. They will move naturally if and when you’re giving out enough energy through your eyes and your voice. If your voice is a low monotone and your eyes are downcast, your hands are simply not motivated to move. When hand energy is suppressed, it comes out as fidgeting. People wring their hands, pull a finger, “pray,” imitate a spider doing push-ups on a mirror, play with coins in their pocket. Be aware and stop doing those things — they distract your listener. Don’t concentrate on your hands; concentrate on projecting your energy through your eyes and voice. And use your hands to support your message:  to show spatial relationships, movement, size and to emphasize points.

2014 was the year I successfully transitioned from being “a speaker who coaches speakers” to “a speaker coach who speaks.” Hoorah! How did you do in 2014?  Is your goal still unmet? No worries. The good news is you have 2015 ahead.

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