What should we do before we speak?
Jacquelyn Smith advised in 2014 that speakers should plan to visit the rest room shortly before they present. That can be helpful in not-so-obvious ways.
The restroom is where some of us apply two more good tactics this writer learned from fellow competitors at speech contests: exercise a little bit, and take a couple of minutes to focus on deep breathing and relaxation.
One caveat from personal experience – use some paper towels under your hands if you choose to use up excess tension in the rest room with a few pushups. That floor is icky!
Another thought; it’s probably best not to chant a mantra in the restroom. Enough said.
We’ve found that putting the event into perspective while walking to the lectern helps; “the earth will continue to turn, my life won’t be changed tomorrow – and nobody will remember my performance half an hour from now” is humbling but calming as well. Smiling and taking a sip of room-temperature water (to reduce ‘dry mouth’ and mucus buildup) are good at this time, too.
Finally, we’ve found that smiling at the audience when our introduction begins – and thinking “I love all of you – you’re the reason I’m here” is particularly useful for quieting butterflies.
There are a couple of things we should avoid saying so we won’t create pot holes in our own presentation.
- “I’m sorry . . . I didn’t mention . . . I didn’t leave the slide up long enough . . . I forgot to tell you . . . ” Apologizing doesn’t help and it undermines our credibility. Whether the mistake is obvious or not, whether it’s noticed or not, calling attention to it is counterproductive.
- “I’m not as prepared . . .” Of course we aren’t, nobody ever is. That’s as relevant as noting that chickens lay eggs – so what? Worse than irrelevance, it undermines our speech. What if the surgeon were to say, as she pulls her mask up, “I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be?” Or “I’m tired (or ill, or in a bad mood) today?”
Our audience, like a doctor’s patient, wants to believe they’re getting the best we can give them – and we are. Whether we could do better if our flu subsided or we had rehearsed six more times is irrelevant – we’re going to give them the best presentation we possibly can – right now.
*Og Mandino said in The Greatest Salesman in the World:
“Love can be the salesman’s greatest weapon . . . Each time we meet someone we should state silently, ‘I Love You’ . . .”