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13 Tips to Zap Your Butterflies When Speaking in Public

13 Tips to Zap Your Butterflies When Speaking in Public
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    Everyone gets nervous before giving a speech. Unfortunately, the more people in the audience, the more important the speech usually is, making any butterflies in your stomach multiply before you begin. Knowing how to keep yourself calm can make a big difference when giving a speech.

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    I’m not a world-famous speaker. I’m just an introvert who has managed to train himself to stay calm on stage. I’ve given quite a few speeches and presentations, so these tips are merely suggestions from my personal experience in trying to fight my own butterflies.

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    For Your Next Presentation

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    If you’ve got a big presentation to do in the next few weeks, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to improve your speaking skill. At this point you just need to make sure you deliver the presentation to the best of your current ability. Nervousness can interfere with that delivery, so here is some advice for conquering your fears in the short-term:

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    1. They won’t notice. I’ve listened to speeches where speakers told everyone how nervous they were. Until that moment, I had no idea they were nervous and I’m sure nobody else noticed either. Think of any nervousness you feel as being your private secret and most of the time it will be.
    2. Rehearse like a maniac. When I have an important presentation, I memorize the key sections word for word. I practice in front of a mirror several times before I go on stage. Rehearsal is extremely important because it will keep you from forgetting your lines in a panic.
    3. Unfreeze the audience with humor. If the situation allows it and you are funny in conversations, try starting with a joke or a bit of humor. If you can start the audience laughing before getting into more serious matters, that will dissolve much of your fright. I wouldn’t use humor if I didn’t feel comfortable with it, so don’t push the jokes if it doesn’t feel natural to do so.
    4. Look good. I’m certainly not going to become a male model overnight, but staying groomed and dressing somewhat more formally than the rest of the audience can do wonders to boost your confidence. Worrying about being underdressed or not having shaved that morning can make any stage fright worse.
    5. Scope out the environment. Come to your presentation room a day before and look around. Where will people be sitting? What potential problems might come up for speaking or displaying information? Be comfortable in the room you are about to speak in.
    6. Talk to the audience. If you don’t know your audience already, have a chat with a few members before you speak. This can give you a bit of extra familiarity with the audience by knowing you have a few acquaintances in the crowd of strangers.
    7. Memorize the sticky spots. During your rehearsal, there will probably be one or two places that you trip over. Reword and memorize these sections so they don’t drag you down during your final speech.
    8. Accept the fear, don’t fight it. The worst thing you can do when you’re nervous is to notice your own anxiety and start worrying about that too. Just accept any nervousness you feel just as you would accept that the carpet is blue or the walls are white. Trying to force yourself to calm down or hide signs of nervousness can backfire and make your problem worse.

    For Your Future Presentations

    In the immediate future there isn’t much you can do to improve your speaking skill. But for presentations in the next weeks, months and years, there are many ways you can eliminate nervousness and increase your confidence.

    1. Join Toastmasters. This organization has been really helpful for myself in improving my public speaking. Not only does it provide a supportive environment with friends, but it offers detailed and constructive advice to improve on.
    2. Practice the Art of Pauses. Your audience needs pauses. Speakers who speed-talk for an hour aren’t likely to leave an impact on their audience. Boosting your confidence starts by becoming comfortable leaving silence. When you’re nervous, your instinct will be to fill any dead air with words. Resisting that urge over the long run makes you a more confident and competent speaker.
    3. Avoid the Powerpoint Crutch. Most people use Powerpoint as a way of directing attention away from themselves and onto a screen. While it may be less frightening to have the audience stare at your poorly worded bullet points, it destroys your speeches and lowers your speaking ability. Training yourself to speak without a slideshow forces you to become more entertaining and confident as a speaker.
    4. Work on Posture and Body Language. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he points out studies where researchers discovered that moving their face into smiling or frowning positions actually made them feel differently. This has been reflected in other research and I believe it applies to your body language on stage. Adopting a confident stance and posture can take training to form as a habit, but it will eventually reduce your nervousness at the podium.
    5. Fail Often. I’ve made a few speeches that absolutely bombed. The jokes were met with silence and I didn’t get the results I intended. While you’d think these experiences would increase my nervousness, I’ve found doing them enough actually reduces it. When you realize that the worst that can happen isn’t that bad, it zaps your butterflies for good.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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