Monday, October 25, 2010

What will you forget when you start speaking? Readers weigh in

Do you find yourself forgetting things once you start speaking?  On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, I asked readers to fill in the blank: "When I get up to speak, I'm most afraid that I will forget _____________________________."  Here's how they replied, followed by some helps that might let them (and you) sail through the next time without forgetting.  We'll also be working on the tools you need to avoid forgetting important factors in my "Good On Your Feet" workshop next week, Nov. 3 and 4. There are seats left, but only a few days remain to register--go to the links at the end of this post.  Now, before we forget....

Dana Vickers Shelley said, "to smile...and to breathe..."  and Dianne Bergstedt said, "How to breathe."  Smiling and breathing are two of the first things to be lost when you're nervous--it's part of the normal fight-or-flight syndrome.  (Ironically, smiling actually releases body chemicals that help you calm down--so make sure you smile.)  Other readers have had this problem, and I wrote "When the speaker needs to catch her breath" just for them.  You'll learn about breathing exercises you need to practice regularly that will provoke a "relaxation response" that will help you react by breathing, rather than losing your breath.

Heather Miguel Kelson said, "everything. I am horrible at public speaking."  Probably not true, but check out "Confidence: Fake it until you make it" if you are your own worst critic. Most of the time, the audience can't tell you're nervous, so make the most of that!

Tilly Evan Jones said, "the names I need to introduce."  Here's where notes are essential, and there's no shame in using them.  If you don't have a lectern in front of you, hold some large index cards--or a Kindle,
which I like to use for introductions.  You can email a document right into this e-book-reader, adjust the type to the right size for you, and read from it even in direct sunlight. Read my review of the Kindle for speakers to learn more.

Natasha Burnett said, "All the important points." Boil them down into an easy-to-remember three-point message, a great way to organize your thoughts so your audience can easily follow them and, better yet, you can recall them when you need to. With enough practice, you can use this method to speak without notes.

Yvette Cook said, "To make eye contact" and Emily Culbertson said, "to speak slowly," highlighting two factors that audiences appreciate.  And here again, notes come in handy.  If you are speaking from a text, annotate it with reminders to yourself.  For eye contact, you might want to write in "LOOK UP" or "LOOK LEFT" every paragraph or so, and for speed, a "SLOW DOWN" reminder can help, as can building in pauses and ellipses into your text.  So one example might look like this:
I especially want to emphasize [LOOK UP] how important your feedback will be during this public comment period.  [PAUSE]  We are hoping that you will in....or share your comments [LOOK UP] between now and November 30. I know this group is not full of shy people [WAIT FOR LAUGH, LOOK UP, SMILE], so I'm counting on you.
You also need to practice those techniques. Ideally, notes like the ones above are used in practice, but you can certainly use them in real time if they won't trip you up even more.

Jennie Poppenger said, "deodorant."  To which I can only say, tape a note to your bathroom mirror.  If perspiration is an issue due to nerves, check out the breathing exercises noted above to focus on the real issue, your speaking anxiety.

What do you think you're going to forget once you start speaking? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. Go here to subscribe...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

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