Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Better Off In The Casket?

Originally uploaded by Tariq's Fantasy World
There have been studies done in the past asking people what their biggest fears are. On a consistent basis, public speaking has ranked at or near the top. In fact, many times people have listed it above dying! That's pretty amazing when you think about it. Jerry Seinfeld took note of this, saying, "This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I'm no expert, but I've done my fair share of public speaking at work, in church, at school, and other functions. There have even been a few times I was standing before crowds of nearly 1,000 people. It can be nerve racking, to say the least. Here are a few tips to help you feel more comfortable giving the eulogy.

5 Ways to Avoid the Comfort of the Casket
  1. Be prepared. You can never be too prepared. Never. How can you prepare? Write out your thoughts. Outline them, write them word for word (especially if you are new to public speaking), and practice them. If you can stand before a mirror and practice, do it. If you can get someone to listen to you and maybe even offer up some helpful criticism, do it. You need to be prepared. Know what you want to say. I like to ask myself this question when prepping, "Would I be able to give this if I were to lose my outline, or notes?" If the answer is "No.", then I know I need to keep working. You can never be too prepared. Never.
  2. Be nervous. I know that sounds crazy, but listen, even the most experienced of public speakers still gets nervous. The key is to not worry about being nervous. Don't focus on it. Instead, pretend you're comfortable. Don't tell the audience you're nervous, ignore it and pretend you're very comfortable. Too often people focus on being nervous, rather than actually delivering their thoughts they came prepared to give. When this happens the only thing you can do is get more nervous! Believe me, I know. It's happened to me, and the more I thought I was nervous the more nervous I became. Eventually, all I wanted to do was jump into the orchestra pit in front of the stage I was on. Allow yourself to be nervous and focus on your presentation.
  3. Keep it simple and short. Say what you have to say and sit down. I don't know how else to say it. There's nothing worse than a speaker who rambles on and on, saying the same thing fifteen different ways. For one, the audience will begin to ignore you and will walk away forgetting what it was you had to say. Secondly, rambling or creating filler when you think you haven't gone long enough can actually make you more nervous. Quit trying to come up with something else to say. If you wanted to be able to speak longer, then you should have come more prepared. Am I wrong?
  4. Be yourself. Don't get up and pretend to be Barak Obama, JFK, or Winston Churchill. You're not and if you think you are, you will never be as accomplished a speaker as they. Figure out the style that you are comfortable with, the style that is you, and then practice it. If you get up before an audience trying to be someone you're not, they will see right through you and your words will fall on deaf ears.
  5. Make your material your own. Nothing is harder to listen to than a presentation you know you've heard someone much more accomplished deliver. In fact, nothing is harder to present than someone else's speech. When you're working up your thoughts in an outline, be sure you believe it. Be sure you understand it. Be sure they are your own words. There's nothing wrong with quoting someone from time to time, but to deliver a presentation that is word for word someone else's will be a difficult sell. Come up with your own examples, stories, or ways to deliver your thoughts. My grandfather was a preacher. One of my favorite stories I've heard about him occured when he sat through a sermon that was read almost word for word from a Matthew Henry commentary. Afterwards he went up to the man and said, "If I had wanted to read Matthew Henry I would have stayed home and read him." Make your words, your words.
"It's quite simple. Say what you have to say and when you come to a sentence with a grammatical ending, sit down." ~ Winston Churchill

1 comment:

http://speakingtowin.com/blog said...

Wonderful tips! Most all the people I know would MUCH rather be IN the casket, rather than up at the podium giving the eulogy! Watching my clients truly overcome their intense fear and loathing of public speaking is one of the things I enjoy most in my job as a professional speaking coach!

I especially like your ideas about encouraging people to just be themselves and use their own words when they get up to speak.

Additional Tip:

At the very beginning, when you feel yourself beginning to freak out about what you're going to say or how you're going to say it in your speech , try thinking about it this way, "If your speech sounds like you speak in your normal life, it's just right."

This simple tip has helped many of my clients clarify what they want to say from the very beginning in their speech writing process. If you write your speech like you speak,(and then practice it out loud to be sure the words you chose still sound like you!) it helps you to feel so much less pressure up at that podium while delivering your speech because it will already be written how you speak normally.

Thanks again for your insightful and well articulated ideas on the subject!