I just updated the info about me on this website. I had to put together a history of speaking engagements, and have never kept good records, so after dredging it up from memory, I thought I would post the list. (If I’ve forgotten any, let me know.)

I’d like to be able to say that I like public speaking. I certainly welcome the opportunity to do it, and it’s growing on me. I love the chance to meet interesting people who come talk to me after the event. I’ve actually grown to enjoy the doing of it — in the moment, on stage, speaking about something I am passionate about. However, before the event is a struggle. I’m not sure I can call it “stage fright” since once I start talking I’m fine. I always have to over-prepare. I usually create way more material than I need, and then pare it down. I try to give my talk at least once completely so that I can get the timing of it, but I always feel stupid talking without an audience. It’s even harder with a fake audience, but it’s better practice. For small groups, if I know the topic really well, sometimes I just wing it with an outline, but I’ve usually gone through four or five potential talks in my head before the event. I don’t think I’m obsessive. I think that being really prepared it’s the only way to do it well, at least for me.

Here are a few things I do to get through public speaking panic, so I can can enjoy the event:
* think about the audience: who are they? why do Ithey care about what I’m talking about? what do they want to learn? (sometimes a good way to start the talk is to ask questions of the audience)
* prepare a great outline (this is never the same as a great set of slides — they complement each other)
* write down the first sentence (or the first few sentences) of the talk
* practice giving the talk while in the shower or driving or cooking dinner — it’s great to be able to talk while focusing on something else (in the live talk, that would be the audience)
* practice giving the talk to other people (to get their feedback, to make it real)

What do you do to prepare a great talk?

One thought on “stage fright

  1. Of course there’s no substitute for preparation. And always do a run through with the demo equipment once before the talk in its final configuration (I’m always amazed at the number of people who expect it to “just work”).

    But what I find very useful is, once the talk has started, to “sink into the moment.” Rather than trying to get through it quickly, which is the natural tendency, pause for a moment at the beginning, slow way down, and tell yourself this is all there is, where you are right now, what you’re doing right now. I get the same feeling when I do Tai Chi (if I’m doing it right).

What do you think?