Have you ever seen a public speaker stride up to the podium and start talking before they’ve even looked at the audience? (Or worse, start talking on their way to the stage?)
This is the equivalent of announcing that you just want to get your speech over with.
And — funny thing — your audience is likely to feel the same way!
Get Off on the Right Foot
I’m a big fan of the Rule of 3. So when a four-step process grabs my attention, each one of those steps has to count big time.
In the case of “Stand, Settle, Smile, Speak,” they do!
Together, and performed in order, these four steps will get you ready to give a powerful and relaxed presentation that you and your audience can enjoy.
Step 1: Stand Like A Powerful Yet Flexible Tree
For a position that will carry you through an entire speech, plant both of your feet flat on the floor at roughly hip width, bend your knees slightly, tuck your butt under a little, and draw your shoulder blades gently toward each other.
Now imagine that you’re a tree whose roots go deep into the ground.
If you’re in the right position (and it helps to practice before you give a speech!), you should feel more secure, more intentional than you do when you’re just standing around.
That’s because, in this position, you are more secure, more balanced, more able to withstand the slings and arrows of public speaking distractions — whether a waiter drops a tray or your nasty little internal voice drops a criticism in your ear.
No matter the distraction, nothing is going to blow YOU off course!
Step 2: Settle Yourself, Letting that Tension Go
Arguably, this is the most important step in “Stand, Settle, Smile, Speak.”
Most of us experience a stretch of time at the beginning of a speech when we’re not yet fully present and confident, not yet “in the groove.”
After a while those feelings go away, but they’re still unnerving and not something we want the audience to notice.
Fear of public speaking is probably hard-wired into our amygdalas (the fight-flight-or-freeze centers in our pre-verbal brains), and I’ve never found a way to make it disappear.
What I have found, though, is that I can embrace the feeling and let it pass through me before I start speaking.
Settling yourself involves two things:
- First, feel your nervousness. This is harder than it sounds for those of us who hate “negative” feelings, but it’s the quickest way forward. Just stand still and stop trying to escape; trust me, the feelings will surface.
- Now breathe out slowly. As you do, let the tension drain from your mind and body. When you breathe in again, let the air settle lower in your body, and try for the next level of calm.
This works remarkably well, and not just for public speaking!
Step 3: Now Smile
Now that you’ve quieted yourself, it’s time to connect with an audience. (And by the way, never start talking until you’ve done this, because who are you talking to if you haven’t connected with your listeners? The answer is: No one!)
Look out at your audience. Really LOOK at them.
They look pretty much like other people you know, right? They probably look pretty friendly.
You’re pretty friendly, too, so smile at them with real appreciation for the attention they’re about to give you.
Take Stock of Stand, Settle, Smile, Speak
Do a quick, silent inventory:
- You’re firmly planted on the floor, like a tree that can’t be knocked down.
- You may feel nervous but you’ve settled yourself. You’re not riding the ragged edge of those nerves, you’re peacefully co-existing with them.
- And you’ve connected with your audience. You’ve looked for and found their friendliness, and offered a smile in return.
Good work! You’re ready.
Step 4: Speak
Open your mouth and talk.
Image by Janaína Castelo Branco