Since I was a child, I’ve always loved telling stories―in my head and on paper. But when it came to speaking in front of a crowd, my mouth would become dry, my hands would shake and I’d forget everything, even how to read. I’d feel all eyes on me, judging me, laughing at me. At least, that was my perception. As a result, I’d fail the assignment.
No one ever told me to picture my audience in their underwear. I only heard that sage advice later as an adult. If I had heard this back then, I probably would have said, “Okay, I’m picturing you all in your underwear―now what?” I’d probably laugh. Though I think this exercise can definitely help you relax and may make you smile, there’s something else you need to accomplish your goal of public speaking. BELIEF. Belief in your message and in yourself.
Something happened when I was about twelve that helped me realize I could speak in front of a crowd. I entered a talent show. Yes, me―the sputtering, tongue-tied, sandpapered mouthed student who could barely read in front of a classroom of twenty students. I sang in front of a few hundred people. Teachers, parents and students. And I won. First place solo performer. The following year I won second place solo performer.
I recall sitting on that stage, looking out at the audience. I could barely see them because of the lighting. In my mind I pretended I was in my room, playing just for me, singing just for me. I sang my heart out that night. I sang because I believed in the lyrics of the songs I’d chosen. I knew they were inspiring or just plain fun. Because of belief and fun, I forgot about my audience. Then the lights came on. Silence. Then thundering applause.
I knew I could sing and play guitar, but I’d had no idea I’d win. When I did, people looked at me differently. Students I was sure had laughed at me during public speaking assignments now applauded me. My heart raced, not from nervousness but from the fact that I’d done it. I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do. I felt the thrill of achievement, and that feeling carried me through to other successes.
Years later, I took a job where I spoke every week in front of audiences of hundreds. People came from all across the Vancouver area to hear me speak. They brought their friends. They left feeling inspired and emboldened to pursue their dreams. I knew that my words were making a difference in people’s lives, changing them physically and mentally.
Every week I challenged myself to write better material―more interesting, more emotional, more inspiring. I made my gatherings fun, a place to look forward to coming to every week. I used visual aids, costumes, humour to get to the hearts of my audience. And I believed in my message and my ability to get through to people. I believed in my mission to change lives. I was a Weight Watchers leader and I believed in what I had to tell them.
Now as a writer, I find there are times when I am speaking in front of large crowds. I’ll speak at book signings, launches and at writers’ conferences, which places me in front of other writers, publishers, book sellers, editors, agents and more. Again, whenever I speak to a group of people, I rely on the one thing that has taken me from sputtering, scared speaker to confident presenter―belief. I believe that whatever I have to say to a crowd, there are at least a handful of people that really need to hear it. I’m speaking to those people.
I don’t need to picture people in their underwear to get me through a speech or presentation. Belief in what I’m saying gets me through anything. Although, it is fun sometimes to imagine the MC in his Simpsons boxers, or the gal sitting in the front row in her man-undies.
My advice to you: When you’re having a panic attack before a speech, remind yourself that you’re speaking to the people who really need to hear your message. Believe in that! When all else fails, picture your audience in their underwear. Better yet, picture them each in a silver sequined thong. Yes, even that spinsterly-looking woman standing up behind the back row is wearing one. See that portly businessman over there in the expensive three-piece suit? His thong is red.
When romance author Cherish D’Angelo is not busy relaxing in her hot tub, sipping champagne, eating chocolate-covered strawberries or plotting romantic suspense with scintillating sensuality, she is ruthlesslykilling people off in her thrillers as bestselling Canadian suspense author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif.
Lancelot’s Lady ~ A Bahamas holiday from dying billionaire JT Lance, a man with a dark secret, leads palliative nurse Rhianna McLeod to Jonathan, a man with his own troubled past, and Rhianna finds herself drawn to the handsome recluse, while unbeknownst to her, someone with a horrific plan is hunting her down.
You can learn more about Lancelot’s Lady and Cherish D’Angelo (aka Cheryl Kaye Tardif) at http://www.cherishdangelo.com and http://www.cherylktardif.blogspot.com. Follow Cherish from September 27 to October 10 on her Cherish the Romance Virtual Book Tour and win prizes.
How do you prepare for a speech?
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