Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Comfort zones for the nervous speaker: 5 places to go

Do you get that "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide" feeling before you start a speech or presentation? If you're stressed or nervous about that speaking gig, you might want to factor in your speaker personality type, since the introverts among us, especially, will need to be by themselves before and after a speech or presentation. But any speaker who's nervous about speaking might need to find a comfort zone right on the spot at the meeting venue. Here are five comfort zones that any speaker should be able to access to help you regroup, calm your nerves and face that audience:

  • The stall or the stairwell: Long favored by speakers as a private place where they can stretch, do some deep breathing, and generally escape the other meeting attendees, those nearby restroom stalls and stairwells offer inelegant but practical places to gather your courage. Just be sure you haven't been wired for sound in advance.
  • Your breathing: Can't say it enough, but your breathing is essential to give you energy, calm your nerves and focus your attention before a presentation. So breathe in and out deeply a dozen times before you go on. This is my favorite pre-speech comfort zone, and it's largely invisible to others, so can happen anywhere.
  • Closed eyes: Your comfort zone might need to erase all that visual stimulation before a talk. Closing your eyes for a few moments lets you retreat from the crowds without having to leave the room. Just make sure you're not facing the audience when you do this one.
  • The lectern: Lecterns are the original speakers' armor, serving as a comfort zone right on stage or at the front of the meeting room. They hide two-thirds of you physically, give you a place to keep a photo or other feel-good reminder nearby, stash your script--all of which might make you feel more in control. Not every speaker uses or needs a lectern, but if it helps you, go for it.
  • A smile: Along with breathing deeply, smiling does everything from mask those nerves to create the feel-good chemicals that can internally boost your mood and make you feel more relaxed. It also helps to counter the natural tendency of most mouths to look either flatlined or downturned when at rest. Get balance in all senses of the word and smile before you speak.

What's your comfort zone to get you ready to speak? Share it in the comments.

Looking for famous speeches by women? Check out The Eloquent Woman Index of Famous Women's Speeches, with a wide variety of women speakers, types of speeches and topics to inspire your next speech. Each one comes with lessons for speakers, plus video or audio and a transcript, where available.