“What’s the best public speaking advice you have to offer?”
One of the District 96 Toastmasters I follow on Facebook posted the above question. I didn’t have to think long before the answer popped into my mind.
I’m going to share my secret public speaking sauce with you; the ritual that plays out in my mind before I take the stage to deliver a speech at our Toastmasters club. Ready for it?
I call my mother.
No, not really, but in my mind as part of a mental ritual to calm my nerves, focus my thoughts and connect with my awaiting audience.
Here’s the ritual in full:
1) When the chair calls upon the evaluator to share my speech objectives, I mentally envision myself dialing my mother’s cell phone digits.
2) The chair then reads my introduction, I imagine the phone ringing in my ear, waiting to connect me to my mother.
3) “Please welcome, Weegee Sachtjen.” As the chair calls my name and I walk on the stage, I can hear my mother’s voice, “Well, hello!” She has caller ID, and I can hear the surprise and excitement of the unexpected call from her eldest daughter in her voice.
4) During those few seconds that I take a deep breath and make my initial eye contact with the crowd, I can hear myself say, “Mom, so glad you answered, have I got a story for you!”
5) And I start my speech.
My husband inspired this simple ritual. He heard a practice version of a speech that I wasn’t “feeling.” The speech ticked off the “must haves,” such as gestures and vocal variety. However, it lacked my usual “rompish” touch.
“Tell it like you would tell your mom.”
The stories I tell my mom are nothing short of Tall Tales taken to the nth degree. My family has a flair for the dramatic and embellishments. However, it is also how I connect. It shows my vulnerable and authentic self.
In short, my mom hears all the tabloid stories of my life.
Why this is my best public speaking advice:
1) Speaking Rituals Help Calm Speaking Nerves
Creating a ritual can help ease you over the anxiety threshold that builds up as we prepare to take the stage. A ritual is the shortcut speakers use to fast track their ability to shift into speaker mode. It is a series of thoughts, motions and breathing techniques that help us transition into our speaker stance and confidence. Many speakers refer to “turning on” or “flipping a switch.”
2) A Room Full of Friends Beats A Room Full of Naked People
“Imagine the audience is naked.” Who wants to think of colleagues, coworkers, and clients naked? What if you felt like you were sharing a story, idea or thoughts with your mom, siblings, best friend or partner? It’s a bit more calming and a lot less awkward the next day.
3) We Are Most Vulnerable When We Feel Safe
We share our hearts, struggles, challenges, and triumphs with people who make us feel safe and connected. Imagining that you are talking to best friends or your mom allows your nerves to make the jump that the audience is safe and connected.
4) They Want to Hear Your Story and See You Succeed
Who are your cheerleaders? The ones who want to see you succeed? Who can you say anything too? Your audience. Your audience is on your side. Thinking of them as someone close to you reminds you of this important fact. Yes, it’s a fact.
Maybe calling your mom doesn’t work for you. Experiment with your speaking ritual. Find your own shortcut.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a phone call to finish.
Submitted by Weegee Sachtjen