When they asked you to present about your project at the all hands meeting, you knew that at some future point things would slow down and you would prepare something intelligent to say. After all, public speaking works like Viagra for building a career or a business.
Or you got this last-minute urgent request for your input. Out loud.
For some people, being asked to “update us on your work” is not good news. A speaking request can actually cue the brain to completely shut down and the mouth to run dry. Some call this “panic.”
Impromptu speaking is the most stressful form of presenting and yet sometimes for whatever reason, you don’t have time to prepare. Life happens.
There are techniques to instantly alleviate the anxiety.
Realize those butterflies are there to give you extra energy so your presentation reaches the minds (and hearts) of everyone in the room.
You can definitely connect with your audience in a meaningful way, even though you don’t feel prepared to speak. #realityministries
The truth is that if you’re asked to speak, it’s because you know the topic. You know more than the audience; they crave your unique point of view. The first thing you need to do is calm down.
Decimate your nerves with these 3 Stress Busters:
- Inhale and exhale slowly. Repeat. Even count to 3 or even 5 before answering a question or beginning your talk. Do you know that this not only lowers your stress, but pausing before you speak actually improves how people perceive you as a communicator. #powertrip
No one will know you’re doing this. You can be sitting in the room with everyone else, focused on slowing down your breathing.
It’s a trusted executive coaching hack: pause before you speak and you come across as powerful, unrattled and all executive-y.
This is not your acceptance speech for winning a Nobel prize (hire me to help you for that). Your audience simply wants to learn something and they are not expecting a TED talk.
- Recall a fond memory or success or something that makes you laugh.
This instantly lightens up your face. Professional photographers will use this to relax you so it’s easier to get a great photo.
You can even laugh at the pickle you feel yourself to be in. If you relax, your audience relaxes.
- If possible, go to the bathroom (or somewhere) and raise your arms above your head to make a large V.
Maintain this position for up to 2 minutes. Body language research overwhelmingly supports this position as a stress buster. I’ve taught it to public speaking clients, nervous violin students before their recitals, aspiring actors and engineers.
Now that you’re a bit more relaxed, here is what to say:
The main thing to communicate is this. Why this project (or update) is important to you AND why you think your audience should care about it.
In other words, what’s in it for them?
“Hi everyone. I’m here to tell you how our team grew our unit’s revenues. It took so much longer than I thought it would but I want to share this crazy story to encourage you to do what we did and take extreme ownership.”
See that’s a powerful introduction to a talk. Here’s your easy-peasy Talk Template for the rest of it.
- What is my message condensed to 1 sentence?
- How does my topic specifically relate what is going on with the people in my audience?
- What does my audience need right now? (Think about information, inspiration, motivation, encouragement, acceptance of an inconvenient truth.) If you’re not sure, take a guess.
So here’s how it works. Introduce yourself and tell them what you’re going to talk about. (That’s the answer to #1.)
Tell a story that you think will relate to what is going on with the people in your audience. (aka your answer to #2)
If you have more time, you can tell another story. Audiences love stories where you lost it, looked stupid and lived to tell them about it. They also love presentations that are shorter than expected.
Tell them why you’re sharing this, or what you want them to get out of your story. (This is your answer to #3.)
Thank them for listening and you’re done! Applause. Cat calls. Whistles. Confetti toss.
Don’t be derailed by impromptu speaking, even if you knew about it in advance. See it as GAME ON and get through it. Print up this template and use it. Your audience will never know you didn’t feel totally prepared!
Laura Mixon Camacho, PhD, is obsessed with helping creatives and technical professionals flourish professionally (by “flourish” she means “make bank”). She believes all conversations should be carried out with style and enthusiasm. (She calls that #brandyou.) And a presentation is just a special conversation. Laura creates quirky, interactive and intense communication workshops and privately coaches quiet executives to be more influential.