Your heart increases, your breathing gets faster. Next, your nonessential systems shut down, like digesting. Your mouth gets dry. Blood is routed away from your extremities. Your fingers don’t work anymore. Your pupils dilate. Your muscles contract. Your spidey sense tingles.
Joe Kowan, TED speaker, describing his stage fright experience
People fear public speaking more than death. As Jerry Seinfeld once joked, at a funeral the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. I get nervous speaking in front of a group. Not so nervous that I’d opt for the casket at a funeral, but it’s an adrenaline rush nonetheless.
If I let my nerves run rampant, I’ll easily derail. So over the years, I’ve worked to channel my nervous energy: think positive thoughts, visualize my delivery, breathe deeply and slowly. Preparing is also key when it comes to managing my nerves. It becomes my security blanket- giving me confidence, cheering me on as if to say “you’ve got this.” But I still have my moments.
So when it was announced that TED speaker Joe Kowan was going to share his talk, “How I Beat Stage Fright” at our company’s Leadership Meeting, I was pumped. Joe’s TED talk has gone viral with 1.9 million views and counting. A graphic designer by day and a musician by night, Joe has had stage fright as far back as he can remember. Not just a little either. A lot, which is a problem when you’re a performer as Joe joked. And now he was coming to the Boston Financial stage.
Joe did not disappoint. He was genuine, entertaining, and provided tangible take-homes. I wasn’t alone in my view either. As a member of the planning team for the meeting, we survey the audience following the meeting; an overwhelming majority of attendees found Joe’s presentation highly valuable. Seasoned leaders as well as future leaders within our organization found him inspirational.
What did we learn? One of my biggest takeaways was how to prepare for your presentation. Here are some of Joe’s tips:
- Be your authentic self. A good presenter connects with others. Think how you can make your presentation unique to you.
- Edit, edit, edit. Know what’s important to the narrative. Editing is an art, requiring discipline, repetition, and commitment. Give it the time and attention it requires. Be willing to cut whole sections and rearrange your script. It worked for Joe.
- Practice makes perfect. For his TED Talk, Joe practiced over 100 times in the three weeks before TED. As Joe noted, you can’t cram and expect success.
- Write it down and say it out loud in front of people: You need to experience your forum. Reading and talking are not the same, and talking in the mirror isn’t the same as talking to a group. Understanding your forum is part of being prepared.
- Tell it like a story: It’s ok to be scripted, especially if you’re not a master of improvising. It also helps you connect with the audience.
Maybe a TED Talk is in your future. Or maybe you’re like me, and have “moments” that need managing. Either way, hear from Joe directly. Check out his TED Talk: “How I Beat Stage Fright“