Dealing with the Unknowns of Public Speaking

When it comes to public speaking, this is one of greatest fears people can have.  There are a number of reasons fueling this fear, but the unpredictable variables that come from speaking no doubt add to the anxiety.  You probably know what I’m going to suggest in order to combat these fears – that’s right, improvisation.  I’m going to present a few common scenarios that can occur when needing to speak publicly and how improv can help you avoid a panicked meltdown at the podium.

When Heads Start Bobbing

I’ve seen people fall asleep within 15 minutes during an hour-long presentation. If you do enough speaking, you’re going to see heads bobbing, particularly at all-day workshops and seminars. The unfortunate part of that is when people walk out of a presentation like that, about a third of what they heard stays behind them in the room. They don’t retain it. Within two weeks they barely remember anything—not even the name of the speaker.  Think about the investment wasted.

While it’s very much the attendee’s job to be respectful and stay awake – it is just as much your responsibility to engage your audience to make staying awake easier.  You must do this through connecting with them, which isn’t going to happen by rattling off a bunch of bullet points in a monotone voice.  Think of your audience as a one-on-one interaction – try to create a relationship together. You can do this by giving examples to illustrate the material, or introduce exercises that require participation.

Something to keep in mind, you’re not going to connect with everyone.  There will always be someone sitting there that clearly projects, “My boss made me come to this.” You can’t do much about that person. But as for the rest of them, you can focus on making that connection that will

The Show Must Go On

There will be times where what was planned on, simply gets thrown out the window.  Maybe there’s a technical malfunction preventing you from using your computer and slides, or someone cancelled in a line-up of speakers and you need to unexpectedly change when you present.  The unpredictable is quite frankly predictable.  Plan for things to not go as planned – or at least prepare yourself with the ability to be adaptable – yet another important element of improvisation.

I once heard a story about a gentleman who was giving a presentation and fell off the stage. He apparently misjudged a step. He tucked up and rolled, stood up, and continued his talk. He made it look as if he had done the stunt on purpose. Now that’s what I call thorough preparation for any contingency. The lesson there is to take advantage of your forward momentum, whether you are stumbling literally or figuratively. On with the show.

Contact me today for your upcoming keynote – I can show you firsthand how engaging I can really be.  Also, learn more about leveraging improv to improve your career by visiting where you can download a free chapter of my book, Improv is No Joke.