We keep hearing that public speaking is what people fear the most, and yet many of us have to do it or want to do it. And we want to be good at it.
Part of “being good at it” means being prepared and calm so you can deliver your talk well and even enjoy it. You want to avoid that last-minute panic about forgetting something or wishing you’d done something you didn’t. This leads to stress, and a less-than-stellar performance. Neither you nor the audience will probably have a good time.
I can’t help you get over your fear of public speaking except to urge you to do it, practice, and study good speakers, but here are some tips to avoid the last-minute panic.
• Create a checklist, and use it for every talk you give. That way, you don’t have to remember a thing because you’ve already written it down.
This is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, and I created it in real-time. I wrote a draft, but I added to it the next time I gave a talk and observed what I was doing. My checklist includes:
- - Talk title
- - Date and time of the talk
- - Host
- - Venue and address
- - Contact name, phone, email
- - Equipment to request
- - What I need to bring (I put check-off boxes next to such items as laptop, Powerpoint presentation on CD and flash drive (I ask the host to provide a projector and laptop to make sure they’re compatible, but I often bring my own laptop just in case), handout with your contact information, mailing list sign-up sheet, raffle prize to get people on my list, books to sell, perhaps a display, business cards, camera, maybe a video camera)
- - Special considerations (things the host might request of me, special guests or reporters who might be there, will someone video or shoot you – or can you make that happen, parking issues, and so on)
- - If you’re selling books, try to find someone who can do it for you to free up your time for talking to people and answering questions. And make sure there’s a place where you can display your books and other materials.
- - Promotion for the host (do you need to send a bio, title, description, and head shot? will they create a flier or poster you can send to your list)
- - Your own promotion (post on your website, send an email blast, and include your talk in your newsletter; create a flier or poster you can send to your list if the host isn’t; send out a press release if the host isn’t)
- - Contact your host just before your talk to make sure everything is all set (this is something they should do, but some don’t think of it; you don’t want to arrive only to discover your host forgot the Powerpoint projector or it’s not compatible with your laptop!)
• Make sure your clothes, shoes, accessories, etc. are 100% ready the night before. Sounds like common sense, but you’ll sleep better!
• Get a good night’s sleep.
• Before your talk, eat protein and drink water. Don’t overdo the caffeine! Your adrenaline will be in full gear.
• Give yourself plenty of time in the morning to shower, dress, and make your hair and make-up look great. You want to be at your best, and you will be much more calm if you have more than enough time. And bring whatever you need to with you for last-minute touch-ups. Sometimes, I bring my “talk outfit” with me if I have to travel a long distance. I want to look as fresh as possible.
• Give yourself plenty of time to get there. Allow for traffic, getting lost, finding the room, setting up your materials, and making sure the equipment is functioning.
• During and after your talk, make sure you have someone take a picture of you, and if someone is particularly complimentary ask her/him to email you a quote.
• Collect business cards or have people sign up on your email list sign-up sheet. One way to encourage this is to have people put cards in a bowl and draw one for a raffle prize.
And then there’s follow-up.
• Thank your host via email or mail.
• Ask her/him for a quote about how wonderful you were.
• Post quotes on your website and send them to your email or Facebook list with an action step (what’s next? how can people work with you or find out more about your subject?). Also post a photo of you.
• Revise your checklist based on this experience so you’ll be even more ready next time.
• Do your own private post-mortem and/or ask others for feedback. What pleased you? What worked? What might you change for next time?
Did these tips help? If they did, I’d love to hear about it!
Please drop me an email and let me know!
2013 © Bonnie Hurd Smith