KNOCK OUT THOSE KNOCK-OUT NERVES

"It's not giving the speech that terrifies me," said a colleague recently. "It's all that anxiety beforehand… those moments, days or weeks before, when I'm planning and preparing… that make me feel sick to my stomach!"

He's not the first or only speaker who suffers from knock-out nerves before giving a speech. Pre-speech anxiety comes in many forms: procrastination, sleeplessness, forgetfulness, irritability, queasiness… there are many more symptoms. They might be due to other causes, but they're very well known to many speakers, from the tentative beginner to the seasoned pro. Why does getting up in front of a bunch of strangers make us feel so scared? And what can we do to prevent it?

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IF THE AUDIENCE IS HOSTILE

Barry was preparing a controversial presentation to the leaders of his country. In a nutshell, he was advocating that the country take a completely new direction with one of its policies. Though Barry had a few supporters for this daring proposition, he knew the majority regarded his views as radical and unworkable. They were not at all receptive. How could he show them that his new way was better without their jumping to angry conclusions or simply refusing to listen?

What should you do when you know your audience is hostile?

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BODY LANGUAGE

It's unfortunately true that many people feel that speaking in public is like walking barefoot on hot coals. You can actually see their discomfort. They can't stand still. They constantly shift their balance from one foot to the other and back again, like marching in place.

For others, standing in front of an audience is like facing a firing squad. They plant themselves on a spot and freeze, afraid to move an inch in any direction or they might get shot. Or they hide behind the lectern or podium, afraid to move out from behind its protective shield to get close to their listeners.

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How To Create A Great Speech

What's the greatest speech you've ever heard in your lifetime? Think about it for a minute. For some people a great speech and a great speaker spring to mind without any hesitation just because they were so memorable.

Take, for example, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. We know it as his "I Have A Dream" speech. We revisit that moment every year on Dr. King's birthday and we can hear it any time on YouTube. It's accessible electronically in a way that most other historic speeches, say, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, are not. So what made that speech great? Why does it touch us in a way that few other speeches in our history have? What did Dr. King say that was so special?

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HOLIDAY SPEECHES > HOLIDAY GIFTS

Question: What do giving a holiday speech and giving a holiday gift have in common?

Answer: We use the same principles to give a speech or to give a gift!

When we think of the folks on our holiday gift list, whether they're the people we work, live or network with, we take into consideration their likes and dislikes, the financial limits we all agree to observe, and then try to come up with something they'll appreciate that they didn't have before. Something that will make them feel we care about them. And when they smile and say, "Thanks, I love this, it's just what I need!" they'll really mean it.

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TRUST YOURSELF TO SAY IT RIGHT

You have to write a speech for an important occasion like a presentation for your company. Or perhaps it's the toast at a wedding, a bon voyage send-off to someone who's retiring, or a memorial speech for someone you loved. You stare at the white page while a million jumbled thoughts run through your head. Or worse, you can't think of a thing to say. You have some vague feelings about how you'd like your speech to sound, but you're totally confused when you try to find the words to begin.

You're not alone. For many people, the fear of speaking in public is not getting up and talking. It's not knowing if what they're going to say is "right".

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