The Truth About Public Speaking When You Don’t Have Time to Prepare
(stress-busters and easy-peasy talk template included)
When they asked you to speak about your business three months ago, you knew that at some future point things would slow down and of course you would prepare something intelligent to say. After all, speaking is great for building a business for wedding planners, boutique owners, bakers and bloggers, soap sellers, stylists and even silent meditators.
Another scenario is the last-minute request for the spoken word. For some people, being asked to “tell us about your business” at any event is not good news. It can actually be the cue for 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 business owners can be overcome with crises and not have time to prepare a scheduled talk. Life happens.
The truth is there are techniques to instantly alleviate the anxiety.
The truth is feeling butterflies gives you extra energy for your presentation.
The truth is, your audience can connect in a meaningful way with you, even though you don’t feel prepared to speak.
Remember that if you’re asked to speak, it’s because you know the topic. You know more than the audience, or for some reason they want your point of view. However, you may not know what to say and what to leave out in a quick “tell us about your business.”
Alleviate your stress when you’re put on the spot using these 3 Stress Busters:
1. 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 level, but pausing before you speak actually improves how people perceive you as a communicator.
It’s a trick for coaching executives: pause before you speak and you come across as powerful, unrattled and all executive-y.
Take pressure off yourself by reminding your brain that this is not your acceptance speech for winning a Nobel prize. Your audience simply wants to learn something and they are not expecting an “award-winning presentation of the year.”
2. 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.
3. 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 business (or project) is important to you AND why you think your audience should care about it.
In other words, share what’s in it for them.
Here’s an example.
“Hi everyone. I’m here to tell you how I doubled my business revenues. It took so much longer than I thought it would but I want to share this crazy story to encourage you in your own business.”
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.
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.
Don’t be derailed by impromptu speaking, even if you knew about it in advance. See it as a game and get through it. Print up this template and use it. Your audience will never know you weren’t prepared!
Laura Mixon Camacho, PhD, is obsessed with communication as a tool for building bridges and careers. She believes all conversations should be carried out with style and enthusiasm. And a presentation is just a special sort of conversation. Laura creates quirky communication workshops and she does private one-to-one coaching. She is the go-to coach if you want to improve your communication skills so that you can move your business or career forward with more confidence, more impact and less stress. Read more at www.mixonian.com.