I've been thinking about public speaking lately. You see, despite being extremely outgoing, I still get nervous when speaking in public. Really nervous. Really REALLY nervous. This nervousness confuses me, since I teach all the time without even a blip of nerves. Put me in front of a classroom of students, I'm off and running. Put me in front of a group of my peers? I'm a mess. And that's the reason I've been thinking about public speaking lately: I'm giving a presentation, mostly for faculty and staff, on campus this week.
While prepping for a talk, I do all the standard stuff. I created an appealing yet simple PowerPoint presentation (yes, I still use PowerPoint despite the consequences); I nailed down my introduction and my conclusion, but I'm leaving the body of my talk as bullet points; I've been practicing; I've familiarized myself with the space; etc. However, in the midst of talking myself out of ritual suicide as an avoidance method, I'll do a few things that I know aren't quite so common, so I thought I'd share.
- Wee-wahs (also known as lion face-lemon face). This entails stretching the muscles in my face to both extremes - out and in - in order to loosen up. It feels and looks very silly, so I do it in private. As odd as it sounds, it does help.
- Shadow boxing (or substitute your favorite self-contained exercise method). Doing this right before you speak will get rid of some of your nervous energy and release a few endorphins, results which will help you calm down a bit. The friend who taught me this method said that she does push ups against a wall, and I imagine running in place could work the same way.
- Abolish "um" with a deep breath instead. This isn't so much a prep method as it is a technique for during your presentation, but I still want to share. I know speakers don't do it on purpose, but when I hear a presentation filled with "um" and "uh" and "you know," I tend to lose track of the content. I don't want that to happen to my audience, so when I feel an "um" coming on, I take a deep breath. It helps me gather my thoughts without distracting my audience. Besides, momentary pauses in your speech can actually help cement your message.
So now it's your turn. Do you have any advice for those of us who dread public speaking?