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Keeping your Cool while Public Speaking

Nicki Moore, PhD
University of Oklahoma

I am surprised at the number of coaches, particularly assistant coaches, who are significantly impaired in their job responsibilities by their fear of public speaking. While most are able to “pull it off” without embarrassment, the pre-performance experience can be distracting and uncomfortable. Thus, some tips are offered below to help keep your nerves in check.

  1. Trust your training! Prepare for your speaking engagement. Even if it is a media session when you are unsure of what questions will be asked, you can always revert back to your coaching principles or a good coaching story. Be sure you have clearly outlined your principles of coaching, and that you can remember them easily. Once you have prepared, know that you have all you need to succeed, and let go of the fear.
  2. Realize you are NOT on trial! Rarely does someone intend to put you in a bind. More often, people want to be informed, entertained, or inspired. Do your best to figure out which of those things is your aim, and take a path to achieve it.
  3. Take a deep breath – several times… even during your talk.
  4. Slow down. If you find that your voice is getting more and more strained as you talk, you are probably not fully exhaling. Thus, shift your note cards and simply breathe. Exhale completely, take a normal breath and continue.
  5. Another tact is to give the audience time to ask questions. Instead of saying, “do you have any questions?” say, “What questions do you have?” and then pause (good time to breathe). This also puts the onus on them to engage in the interaction.
  6. Remember you probably know more about your topic than anyone else in the room! If you didn’t someone else would be speaking! You are the expert! However, there is no such thing as an all-knowing expert! Thus, if you know the answer, be straightforward and give it to them. If you don’t know an answer, say, “good question – I will research that a little and get back with you. Would you please give me your e-mail address when we are finished so I can follow up?” This builds credibility and integrity – especially when you actually respond.
  7. Tell stories. Feel free to tell a story or two to illustrate a point if it comes to you. People like stories – they can help paint a picture for someone who otherwise might miss an important point.
  8. Be human. Humans make mistakes and that is okay. Don’t dwell on your blunder, just move on and focus on the next part of your talk. The less you draw attention to a mistake, the less others will notice. Alternatively, if it offers a chance to infuse humor into your talk, take it!  

Nicki Moore, PhD
University of Oklahoma
(405) 325-3138