You cannot calm your speaking nerves at the last second if you haven’t got your ducks in a row and quacking in tune ahead of time.
Here’s what you need to make sure you have in place ahead of time:
- Obviously your message outline, so that you can refer to it easily. I’m not a big believer in memorizing things because if you forget a certain word or sentence, it can throw you totally off.
- Second, your introduction that you hand to the person who is introducing you so that this person can brag about you and you don’t have to say how wonderful you are.
- Third, any handouts you may have for the audience, plus software and hardware, if you’re using slides.
- The devil’s in the details and they can really blow your confidence if you don’t have them all in line. So, ahead of time, make sure you confirm the date, time, venue, how to get there, the setup, the contact person, and the name of the organization for which you’re talking.
Be sure that you have a list of stuff to take with you:
- Handouts for the audience if you’re going to have them,
- Your business cards, signup sheets,
- Spare pens if you’re going to be inviting people to sign up for a session with you,
- A cell phone to record your talk,
- Software and hardware if you’re using slides, and
- A small desk clock.
Now why am I suggesting a small desk clock? Because if you are given a certain length of time to speak and you get into a room and the clock is behind you, or there’s no clock at all, trying to see the time on your watch or on your cell phone is very difficult to do.
Plan to arrive 60 minutes early if you’re using slides. How many times have you been in a meeting where they have to start late because they’re having trouble getting the slide projector up or, or there’s some kind of glitch?
Otherwise plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. First greet the event planner. Then go to the restroom. Now why do you want to use the restroom beyond the obvious reason? You want to look in the mirror and make sure you look as put together and as neat as you did when you left for the event.
Then if there’s a microphone, test it.
If you have time, greet the attendees at the door, which warms them up to you before you even say a word.
Here’s a tricky situation. What do you do at the end of a talk or in a meeting when you’re asked about something off the cuff? First of all, stop for a minute. Ask yourself, is this in your wheelhouse? If you have an answer, go ahead and share it, but sometimes you don’t have the answer.
If it’s something that you are going to be working on down the road, promise to share the information at the appropriate time. And if it’s not something that’s in your wheelhouse, don’t feel you have to try to explain something that you don’t know anything about.
Everybody’s BS meter is always on. If you try and fake it, people know it. If you honestly say you don’t know about this, or it’s something you’re going to be doing later, or it’s somebody else’s thing to do, that is much more credible and enables you to maintain your authority and expert status in the areas where you are an authority and an expert.
Here are some of my rules of engagement to which I’ve basically been referring.
The first is you are absolutely under no obligation whatsoever to answer every and any little question somebody asks you, especially if the information is none of that person’s business.
If this is a business situation, you are really under no obligation to report on something without adequate notice. That is the fault of the person asking you the question. If you don’t get adequate notice, you can say, “I really wish you had let me know you were interested in this topic. I would have brought the information with me. Why don’t I get back to you later or share it at our next meeting?”
Don’t let yourself get sandbagged by somebody who asks you something that’s out of line like that.
And this is really important! You have to be a person of your word. If you promise that you’re going to get back with an answer or report at a later meeting, be sure to do it. And if you do it sooner than expected, major points to you.
Suggestions about handling last minute nerves and mistakes you may have made are also included in this video.
Other Coffee and Coaching Club videos are available on my YouTube channel here.
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