One of the key ingredients for a successful speaking engagement is to be nervous as hell before you start. It does not mean you should be trembling in your shoes, but if you are not a little on edge, you will generally fall flat. At least that’s what happens to me. If I am very comfortable before I begin to talk, I generally come off poorly due to my overconfidence.
This is what I preached to my son when he was getting ready for oral argument in his trial advocacy course in law school. He did very well (OF COURSE). Now that he is a litigator, he reminds me of that advice a few years back, and tells me that it helps him today to deal with his nervousness prior to a trial or hearing. (Nice boy to say his father’s counsel actually helped.)
This all came to mind when I saw an article on Attorney at Work by attorney Ruth Carter this week. She provided some good tips that bear on this nervousness factor. Her advice, which she says changed her speaking life, is to remember “everyone (in your audience) wants you to do well.” Also, your focus should be on doing a good job for the audience’s sake. And the way to do that, in my mind, is to be as well prepared as possible, practice even if you’ve given the same speech before, and expect (even welcome) that edginess that will give you the best chance of being on your A game.
Carter says she tries to “focus on speaking slowly and keeping my message concise and entertaining so the audience will remember it.” She concludes that when she focuses on that the “audience gets what they need and everything else seems to fall into place.”
Sound advice! I hope it helps you do well next time you give a speech.