Thursday, August 11, 2016

My favorite fixes for public speaking: Take care of the speaker's body

As a speaker coach, it's my job to keep a lot of tools in my toolbox to help my clients improve their public speaking. But just like any craftsman, I have a few go-to tools, well-worn from frequent use. This is the second in a series of five favorite fixes I turn to all the time. Each one sounds simple, but confers a complex array of benefits to public speakers...if only you will do them. I'm sharing each favorite fix along with the types of speakers who might benefit most from them. You'll get the best results if you try them not once, but over a period of time.

This week's favorite fix is to take care of the speaker's body. Speaking and presenting pose a physical challenge as much as a mental one, but I see many speakers who neglect their physical care and then wonder why they have a rocky speaking experience. They skip meals, don't hydrate, don't exercise or stretch, and fail to get a good night's sleep. I've seen this result in fainting on stage in extreme cases, and more agitation and nervousness--along with bad last-minute decisions--in less extreme cases.

Of course, you should be taking care of your body all the time, speakers, but especially so in the run-up to your big talk. The day of your presentation should include that excellent night of sleep, meals at regular intervals and well before your talk, stretching, and drinking lots of water (and no caffeine) a few hours ahead of your gig. Keep in mind that theatres and hotels are notoriously dry environments and double up on your usual water intake. If you run or walk or lift weights or do yoga, do them the night before or the morning of your talk, and burn off some of that stress. Exercise also will keep you from over-preparing and getting too nervous. If you've been memorizing your talk by using audio recordings while you run or walk--a favorite tactic of mine--leave that recording at home or in your hotel for this last exercise session. Got extra time to prep? Get a massage, take a nap, meditate (the latter is another of my favorite fixes).

This is a good fix for speakers who forget their content frequently; who have dry mouth or feel light-headed; who have too much nervous energy; who have felt weak or light-headed during a talk; or who have trouble focusing. 

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Florian Richter)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.