How is your confidence before you speak?
I want you to meet Julia.
Julia is president of a high-powered regional organization. She organized a mean campaigned that left her opponents coughing in the dust. And now she is in the big league.
Before the presidential chair could get used to her expansive rear end, she had four invitations to speak!
So as a new speaker, how could she have overlooked the need to “skyrocket your confidence before your speak”?
Provoked by nothing else but her competitive nature, Julia decided she could pull off her public speaking career without any input from me. Her choice.
So she prepared her first speech, she practiced it and turned up at the event, ready to shake up the organization with her avant-garde ideas. She took her seat at the head table, graciously accepted her programme and one glance later…her confidence took a nose dive!
There were 7 speakers before her. Nobody told her she was speaking right after the government Minister and just before the break. Nobody told her there were going to be 150 persons in the audience. Nobody told her she might have to answer questions and oh my God! Is that the Mother of all speakers in the audience?
And that was only the beginning. By her own admission, only pride kept her from bolting from the room that Saturday evening!
But…was there any way that she could have avoided all this? Was there a way she could have skyrocketed her confidence before she spoke? And would you really like to skyrocket your confidence before you speak?
I say “yes” to the first and second questions and if you said “yes” to the third question, help is on the way.
When you are invited to speak at an event, even before you think of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you need to find out as much as you can about the event and venue.
This is one of the fastest ways to get you comfortable and full of confidence before you speak.
Here are some questions you should ask about the event:
In what capacity am I being invited?
This is not always clear when you are invited and you should not make assumptions if you have many responsibilities in your life - just ask.
For example, you should ascertain whether you are invited in your role as head of your organization or as a just a citizen with influence.
This matters if you want to really skyrocket your confidence before you speak because these two roles may require different speeches.
How many other speakers are on the programme?
Don’t be afraid to ask this question.
For me, this is often the question which will determine if I accept the invitation or not.
When there are too many people on a programme, you may end up being asked to cut the length of your speech after you were prepared to speak for an amount of time as agreed.
This is immediately disconcerting and a blow to your speaking comfort zone.
Who are the other speakers and what are their topics?
Many event planners like to keep the identity of their speakers as secret as the combination of their home safes. But it’s in your interest to crack that code.
Just because they are good at hiding the identity of their speakers does not mean that event planner are good at choosing speakers.
So go ahead and ask this question. Why? Getting an honest answer to the question “who are the other speakers and what are their topics?” helps you to present information which is not likely to be covered by the other speakers.
Knowing that you are bringing fresh information or looking at old information from a fresh perspective is enough to boost your confidence even before you speak.
What is the order of appearance of the speakers?
No…you are not the Master of Ceremonies but you are a speaker on a programme at an event who is not about to be caught off guard.
Having this information gives you an indication of the likely state of mind of your audience when you speak.
This state of mind affects how they will receive and respond to your speech.
Knowing that you will be speaking after someone who is a trained and experienced public speaker will make you nervous but you can prepare in advance.
Just imagine not knowing…
Will there be a break for refreshments? And when?
I’ve had the privilege of attending events in many countries and in many different cultures. In most of them, the big attraction was the food.
If the refreshment break is just after your speech, you need to deliver food for thought on a plateau of humour, if you will even have a chance of engaging your audience.
So knowing if there will be a refreshment break, and when, helps you to prepare your speech in such a way as to make sure that the audience at least listens to the end.
Now for some questions you can ask about the venue…
Exactly where will the event be in the location?
This is a question reserved for large venues like university campuses. It is not uncommon for you to be given the address of the venue but not the exact location of the event within that venue.
Asking exactly where the event will be held will save you loads of time and frustration. It will also boost your confidence and help you to feel relax before you speak.
I should know…ahmm well...it happened to me.
What is the size and shape of the room?
Ooohh…I learnt about this one the hard way.
Early in my public speaking journey I was invited to replace a well-known speaker. What an opportunity to show off my world-class speaking skills. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Huh!
Armed with a speech to rock the world, I arrived at the venue to find I was set to speak in a large room, with a high roof, really bad acoustics and an audience whose size was much better suited to a smaller room.
Needless to say my nerves were shattered, I prayed for a small hole to climb into and ended up with memories I still find embarrassing.
So, please ask this question or better still before the day of your speech, go and see for yourself.
Will I be speaking from a platform?
This question matters because speaking from a platform usually means it is a more formal speaking occasion.
If up until now all you have been accustomed to was the informal “talk” standing on the same level of the audience, it is good to discover you are making this change in advance.
It also requires you to be aware of platform etiquette, you need to be sure your clothes are right for the occasion and your speech must be also up to the moment.
Will a microphone be provided – if so what type?
There is something about a microphone that scares a “young” public speaker. I get this. The first time I spoke into a microphone, that squeaky, frightened voice that came back to me could not be my usual sultry, sexy voice.
A cordless mic is another story. Because of how they have to hook you up with this mic, you had better be wearing the right clothes. For starters. I've had an experience where I just about had to undress to be hooked up with a cordless mic.
Finding what type of microphone you will be using before you speak will go a long way towards reducing your nerves and increasing your confidence.
If I need it – what type of multi-media equipment is available?
If ever you meet a situation where your computer is not compatible with the projector and the versions of the software you use and the ones available differ, then you will understand the value of this question.
Moreover, some organisations might have the very latest equipment which you might not be familiar with.
Turning up to speak and finding equipment that you’re not familiar with is one of the most off-putting speaking circumstances you can ever meet.
Want to pull off your presentation with panache? Make “If I need it…what type of multi-media equipment is available?” one of your “must ask” questions.
When people think of public speaking fears, they are almost always thinking of actually delivering the speech.
But in my experience, the more information you can nail down about the speaking situation before you speak, the more you will reduce your fears and sky rocket your self-confidence.
Here again is a sample of the questions you can ask:
Questions about the event:
1. In what capacity am I being invited?
2. How many other speakers are on the programme?
3. Who are the other speakers and what are their topics?
4. What is the order of appearance of the speakers?
5. Will there be a break for refreshments? And when?
Questions about the venue:
1. Exactly where will the event be in the location?
2. What is the size and shape of the room?
3. Will I be speaking from a platform?
4. Will a microphone be provided – if so what type?
5. If needed – what type of multi-media equipment is available?
Now the next time you’re invited to speak, even before you speak, you now have a resource which you can use to help you deliver your speech so that you leave your audience wanting more.
Don't get caught like Julia did!