Screw the cue cards: 5 tips for mastering a live audience

There’s a reason public speaking is feared more than death.

It’s scary as hell! So many eyeballs staring at you. A crowd of faces reacting to you. People are paying attention to your every word, all of your movements, and they’re all vibin’ your energy. HI PRESSURE!

If you’re nervous just thinking about that possibility, you’re not alone. Even the most well-versed stage goddesses still get nervous and still want to know they did OK (lookin’ at you Queen Bey). Knowing that nerves are part of the process is a little encouragement to keep pushing through. I’ve spent the past four years in front of groups as small as ten and as big as 500. Whether it was a workshop in Paris, a small presentation in Miami or a massive conference in NYC, I’ve learned a few things through screw-ups, mentorship, and simply getting on stage and doing it that have helped make public speaking easier.

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Because you and I both know your success depends on you summoning those 5th grade diorama presentation skills in order to build thought leadership and visibility. You want that panel seat at Create & Cultivate one day. You most definitely want the hot seat on a morning show. Or the viral Ted talk. Dreaming big requires starting small and mastering the moments with live audiences. Eventually they’ll be the big ones and you’ll crush it, and your business will follow suit.

Power pose ahead of time

The position of your body can literally affect your mind. If you’ve never watched Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk, do it now.

If you’re feeling so physically nervous you do not know what to do – power pose in the bathroom stall, in a corner, or back stage. What’s a power pose? Stand like superwoman. I always make it a point to be moving before I go on stage. The physical movement lets the nerves flow through me instead of getting so jammed up I start shaking. Sometimes I’ll dance. Other times if eyes are on me before I have the mic, I’ll stand in a half power pose with my feet wider, my chest out, but overall relaxed and ready to take the spotlight.

Minimize unknown variables

There’s nothing that will throw a wrench in your public speaking game like a variable you didn’t know about. We’re talking audio, clickers, live streams, timing, props, and beyond. The best thing you can do is get a feel for the space before you go in to crush it. Stand in front of the room. Walk the stage. Click the clicker. Talk to the A/V guys. Know the positioning of your slides and who’s managing them. The more you understand all the tiny variables, the more comfortable you’ll be. And the better chance you’ll have at a home run.

Remember: you know something they don’t

As in…your material. Your content. Your script. Your presentation. If you skip a section, forget a word, or flip flop the sequence, the only person who will ever know that is you. So when it happens, and it most definitely will, don’t immediately stop, apologize and freak out. Your audience was none the wiser until you brought attention to it. So just channel your inner Adele during the 2016 Grammys and KEEP GOING.

Tell stories

The woman and mentor who has gotten my public speaking to where it is today (Oh, Hi Tiffany!) gave me one of the greatest pieces of advice when it comes to leading an audience: People will not remember the information you give them but they will always remember the stories you tell. So if you’re being interviewed for a webinar or giving the first big keynote of your life, create an emotional connection with your content by telling stories to prove your point. These stories can be harvested from your own life experiences or the journeys of others. It’ll provide a memorable experience for everyone involved.

Start small. And set the date.

When I used to be in broadcasting, they’d tell us newbies to go make our mistakes in small market gigs first. It makes sense, and luckily those small opportunities aren’t hard to find. Pitch your local community group to host a workshop, Q+A, or talk. Women’s groups, networking groups, and communities are always looking for amazing people with strong content. You can get a feel for the spotlight which will push the momentum and your comfort level for the “big” stuff.

If you get an invitation to speak, say yes. If you get nervous, you’re not alone. Command that spotlight and have fun while you do! There’s no greater thrill than one from rocking out with a live audience.

This article originally appeared on Create & Cultivate. 

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