Some people say they’d rather die than speak in public. They’re almost not kidding. Fear of public speaking is paralyzing, sometimes even for professional actors.
So it’s not surprising that Rikk Wilde, the Chevrolet employee who sweated and stammered through his World Series MVP award presentation, quickly earned sympathy instead of the early flood of “hilariously awkward” tweets.
Millions of people understand that even practice and note cards — both of which Wilde had — may not make it easy to stand and deliver. Then again, practice and notes can make it easier.
Toastmasters International is perhaps the best known organization that provides tips and opportunities to practice speaking in front of others. Many schools also offer speech classes. You also can try some techniques on your own.
The how-to advice generally separates into two parts — preparation and presentation. Preparation means that you know your material. You have assembled the notes (preferably not word for word) you may need for reference. And you have practiced — in front of a mirror, a loved one, a speech coach, a pet, anyone or anywhere.
For presentation, you’ve probably heard the suggestion to imagine the audience naked. That actually could move you off point. Better to imagine that everyone wants you to do well and they’re going to applaud you at the end.
More specifically, it’s smart to arrive at your speaking venue with adequate time to check your physical appearance and try to relax. Verify who is in the audience if you’re not sure. If you can, shake some hands ahead of your speech to personalize the relationship.
At the podium, remember to breathe. Make eye contact with the audience. Don’t tell them you’re nervous. If it’s appropriate, gain rapport and time by giving thanks. Then speak. Try not to race through. And use inflection to brighten your delivery.