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Use an Ironing Board to Flatten Your Public Speaking Nerves

Holly Ward

It’s your big break. You received an invitation to present a workshop to a special interest group and the timing couldn’t be better with the recent launch of your business. You’ve been handed a captive audience and you already have some of the best content you’ve ever written. But the butterflies are starting to stir.

Go ahead and let those monarchs flutter because as an entrepreneur, you are a master at being resourceful. I’d like to put a few techniques in your DIY tool box that you can reach for the next time you’re given a speaking opportunity. After all, you’re the President, CEO and simultaneously the HR, IT and accounting departments, so why not add corporate spokesperson to the list? You got this.

1. Use the ironing board to work out the kinks. Pun intended.
Even if you don’t read any further in this blog, the most important piece of advice I can share with you is to be prepared, and I don’t mean scanning your notes in the car before you walk into the auditorium. You must know what you’re going to say inside and out so it flows like a conversation; no one wants to listen to a robot. Practice how the words are going to come out of your mouth to get rid of any tongue twisters or excessive alliteration. Practice what ideas follow each other in what order, when you’re going to take a pause and when to advance the slides if you’re using them. Time yourself so you don’t have to race through your material.

My most effective practice sessions are done standing at my ironing board because it’s about the same height as a podium and I can rest my notes on it to get used to standing, turning pages and projecting my voice all at the same time. Our washer and dryer have heard countless presentations about financial reports, new customer service programs, media announcements and grand openings.

2. Visualize your success
If you’re unfamiliar with the room you’ll be in, ask the organizer for the details, not only to take care of any technical logistics but also to help you visualize walking up to the front, setting down your notes, grabbing the remote for your laptop and then giving an amazing presentation. Athletes use this technique to prepare for a game because it honestly works. Picturing yourself up at the front of the room and just killing it seems to make it less nerve wracking when you’re finally there. Remember that everyone is pulling for you to succeed — you should too!

3. Hello nerves, how’s it going?
I once attended a public speaking training session given by a professional stage actor. She was completely engaging and honest with us about feeling jittery before performing. Her backstage advice was to simply feel those nerves well up and acknowledge them, they do not need to take over. You’re nervous and that’s natural, it’s not the end of the world. There would probably be something wrong with us if we didn’t feel them. Turn that energy into excitement for sharing your message with your audience. Consider the fact that it’s not just about you anyway, it’s about your message and how your audience will feel after hearing you speak. Take several deep breaths and focus on your content instead of your stomach.

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About the Author:

Holly Ward is the president of HWard Communications Inc., a marketing and branding firm in Windsor, Ontario. She is an accomplished public relations professional with 18 years of experience, including extensive work as a media spokesperson. Holly was named “Professional of the Year” by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce at the 2017 Business Excellence Awards. Prior to launching her firm, she held the top communication executive positions at two of the major employers in Windsor, Ontario, as the Chief Communications Officer at the University of Windsor, and previously as the Director of Communications and Community Affairs at Caesars Windsor.