To understand the phrase “own the room,” you don’t need to look any further than Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
The First Lady gave a stunning display of being fully and calmly in charge of herself, her words, and all that she surveyed as she knocked her opening night presentation over the fence.
Obviously, it takes a lifetime of preparation to hold your ground—and be yourself—in the glare of a national spotlight. But here are the things that you can do to ensure that, when you present, you’ll be cool, calm, and collected in your own inimitable way.
Here’s What NOT Do Just Before You Give a Speech
First, let’s start with what you shouldn’t do:
Even if every cell in your body is screaming at you to hurl yourself at the podium and start talking the second you get there, don’t!
Doing this will put you off-balance, like a sprinter who starts off on the wrong foot.
Sure you can recover. But it’s better (as the old adage has it) to begin as you mean to go on.
How Great Public Speakers Like Michelle Obama Own the Room
Okay, here’s what to do:
- Walk onstage in a relaxed and confident way;
- Put your notes down on the podium (if there is one, and if you have notes);
- Stand tall, with your feet about hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent;
- Look at the audience—yes, really look at them! See? They look pretty friendly, don’t they?;
- Take a slow breath (do this by first breathing out, then opening your mouth so that the air rushes in; this takes a little practice, but it’s a sure way to calm yourself);
- Remind yourself that you’ve worked hard on this speech, and have practiced and prepared to succeed;
- Wait until you feel calm, confident, and powerful.
Now you’re ready to begin speaking!
And here’s Michelle Obama to demonstrate the power of this kind of readiness: