At some point, after the pleasure of receiving the invitation to speak at an event and the initial round of working out the logistics, you realize that now you need to actually go and deliver the talk.
If you're one of many who has had anxiety over speaking in public, you can understand how this can be the hardest part of all. It's sometimes enough to make you think twice about accepting in the first place.
There are ways to moderate the anxiety, however, that can pivot a flattering-but-ultimately-challenging opportunity into something that's actually pleasurable to experience, both for you and your audience. Here are three strategies that have worked for me, that helped me to navigate speaking opportunities so that they delivered on their inherent promise.
Maximize the prep work.
No one likes to be caught off-guard, either as the speaker or the host. Most organizers want to know what you're going to say before you get up in front of their audience and say it.
There will be prep calls where logistics are organized. For me, these calls have ranged from selecting wines that will be poured during the event, to brainstorming the best format for the presentation, to choreographing the hand-off between myself and a co-presenter.
Prep calls may seem tedious at first glance, but in fact they're where the beauty of the opportunity is shaped. It's also where the personality of the event and the audience make themselves known, which means it's where you're able to see how you fit into broader themes.
Want to understand how to deliver the message about your business that will best "land" with the people in the room? Prep calls are your best chance, ahead of time.
Share the stage.
Certainly, there's a reason that you've been invited to speak, which presumably has to do with your individual expertise on a particular subject. But sometimes, especially if there's a gap between your expertise and the audience's, it may help to consider inviting another expert in the field to share the stage.
When I've been in this situation, there has been an organic narrative that the event organizers wanted to weave. My company's work was a key part of that narrative, but there are other voices that complement our own, that actually highlight our respective contributions. Look for opportunities to highlight the work of partners who "join you" on the stage physically or virtually, for an effort and a delivery that's greater than the sum of its parts.
I know you know this. I do, too. But how often do we literally schedule the time in our calendars to practice, out loud, what we plan to say in our public speaking appearances?
Not often, I'm willing to guess, not because of lack of interest or motivation, but because we're simply busy making it happen for the business that got us the speaking engagement in the first place.
The practice component achieves several things. First, the more you run through the talk out loud, the more you hear yourself stumble over certain points or certain transitions, so the more likely you are to smooth them out. And second, practicing the talk gives you more confidence about the situation, pure and simple.
Which brings us back to the antidote to the problem-- anxiety-- that we started with. More practice means less anxiety. Less anxiety means a better chance to hit it out of the park at your next speaking gig.