Public Speaking – is it like a maze to you?


You need to be speaking in public – but where to start?

Many of us avoid situations which may involve speaking in public, and some go as far as avoiding promotions – and who can blame them!

When I was head of HR I avoided it for years and became skilled at camouflaging myself and not making eye contact if there was even the a slightest whiff of a need to get up there and talk!

However the day came when I could avoid it no more; I was  asked to speak at the staff conference – yes in front of all the staff. Over the next few weeks I wrote my ‘script’, talked to myself in my lounge,  added what I hoped would be amusing anecdotes; but there was one HUGE thing I had not planned and prepared for …

Yes, you’ve probably guessed, it was the dreaded nerves – it’s all  a bit of a blur now (it was at the time too!) – I walked onto the stage to the usual polite round of conference applause and just froze … nothing came out of my mouth – the only thing I remember saying as I held my chest is  “it feels like my heart is about to burst out” – so that was it. I’m sure I mumbled on and got my words out in the end – but it was hardly as I had hoped!

Soon  after that I was asked to run in-house training for staff and I learnt lots of news tools and techniques; not just how people learn and take in information, and how to structure talks, but the most vital of tools – how to manage my state.

Here are some tools and tips to help you navigate the maze that speaking in public can be like: (I will be going into more details of these and more on next years workshops)

BREATH when we are anxious our breathing automatically changes to prepare us for flight or fight; so it makes sense for this to be the first thing to do.  Ensure you are ‘belly breathing’ by that I mean that your tummy moves in and out not your chest and shoulders. Ensure you don’t wear clothes that are too tight which will stop you getting the breath you need to let your brain know that “all is well”!

  • SELF TALK – no it’s not mad to talk to yourself! There is a link between what we say to ourselves and how we feel. Try it .. “I am rubbish at talking in public and it will be a nightmare” – I didn’t even like to type that! Now try “I am calm, confident and very capable and every time I speak in public I get better and better” – how different do you feel when you say positive things about yourself? (you wouldn’t say horrible things to a child so stop doing it to yourself!)
  • THE AUDIENCE IS QUEEN / KING – not you! Show the people you are talking with that you care about them and the time they are taking to listen to you. Take time in your planning to think who you will be there and what might they like to hear. NEVER miss out WIIFM = whats in it for me!