Recently I was asked if I struggled with public speaking. I did and I didn’t. When I first started speaking in public, I was already familiar with being on stage as a musician. And, I found from introducing my musical pieces that I liked speaking to the audience and sharing a little about what I or the group I was with was going to play. I really enjoyed interacting with the audience.
When I decided to improve how I spoke, I joined Toastmasters. But initially as I was standing up in my club to do my first speech projects, I found that I was quite nervous. AND, I have to say I always did and do experience nervousness when going in front of an audience. But in speaking, two things helped me.
FIRST of all, when I was doing my first speeches, some of the nervousness I felt was a different nervousness than my usual. It was different in that I didn’t fully feel like I belonged up there nor that they should listen to me. I knew they would listen because it was a Toastmasters meeting and that’s the whole point of being there doing speeches—so you can do them and get feedback.
But in the back of my ‘being’ I didn’t feel I belonged at the front. It was subtle but there. So how did I get over it? I got over it by doing speeches. That is, I just kept working through the manual. On the evening when I finished my 6th speech and was walking back to my seat, I suddenly had a new feeling go through me. It was again subtle but I felt that what I’d done was okay AND maybe I can belong up there. Maybe I do have something to say that people would want to listen to. It’s hard to describe but it was something like that. Over time – read more speeches behind me – I felt more and more like I belonged at the front and in a way that was similar to when I had my trumpet or baton in my hand.
The SECOND thing that helped me with the usual nerves of going up to do a speech had to do with my preparation. I found so many similarities to my musical studies when I began preparing speeches. I guess the bottom line for this for me was (and still is) knowing what I was doing. And for you or anyone else, that means knowing what you will do from the moment you take the stage to the end and you walk off. I learned early on in music that as soon as I take the stage, I’m “on”. And it’s the same with speaking. So, to be ready, first is my speech and “what I’m going to say”. The second is practicing for it. (practicing is a whole topic unto itself for the purposes of this post, I’ll just focus on the writing as you need that first)
To help me feel more ready to speak, I would write out my speeches almost to the word – okay… to the word. It didn’t mean that I would do a verbatim delivery but darn near it. I used established speech structures to help me craft my speech and over time, my speech writing improved. That combined with practice at home and then doing more speeches out of the house, and I started to tame my nerves and grow my confidence. I needed that level of clarity about what I wanted to do when I took the stage. Some people can wing it but not me, not in the beginning, nor really in the middle either! And still today, I benefit from taking the time to think through my ideas and craft my message. I have heard and believe that there are no (or few) good speeches. There are only good to great re-written speeches.
If you need any assistance with writing speeches, I just created a brief guide to help people with that and I share out more tips on this subject by email. You can find all that HERE.
For me EVERY speech (and musical performance for that matter) is NEW. So, I always still feel nervous but now I look at it as being like my engine getting warmed up and ready for what’s coming. There are other strategies for dealing with nerves that I email out so I won’t add to the length of this by putting them in.
Good luck with your public speaking. It’s totally doable to become comfortable at it. I know many people who have and you can too. Just keep writing and delivering speeches and seeking out ideas from others. (oh… one quick suggestion for nerves is check Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk…good ideas there!)
PS. Find the guide by clicking HERE or on the image.