Have you ever seen a speaker who seemed to say the right things and even say them in the right way but just didn’t affect the audience very much?
Have you seen a speaker who seemed to give all the right gestures and the perfect voice but just didn’t seem to connect?
Have you ever wondered what that little thing was that kept him or her from making a greater impact?
From my experience, I believe that when all the pieces are there but something still seems like it’s missing, it normally comes down to one reason: A lack of proper mental preparation.
Mental Preparation leads to a Significant Advantage
I played 4 years of Division 1 college basketball and we won 3 consecutive East Coast Conference Championships and made two trips to the coveted NCAA Field of 64 March Madness Tournament. Any way you look at it, we met with success year after year. What was the key to our success? Was it the players? Was it luck? Was it the coaching staff? I believe our success came from our preparation both physically and mentally. When the lights came on, we were always ready to play.
Pre-Game for Basketball
Pre-game is what we called the processes we went through on game day to prepare us for the game. Here are some examples of our pre-game rituals:
- Eating at The Eagle’s Nest restaurant whenever we traveled up North. Stopping there was a ritual for us and each of us players knew exactly what meal we would get.
- Arriving at the arena and having a final walkthrough of our game plan. The coach would make sure we knew everything we had to in order to succeed. These walkthroughs mentally prepared us for the real thing later on that day.
- Getting back on the course about 30 minutes before the game to warm up again. We made sure our muscles were loose and our brains were active. We got used to the environment and increased our energy.
- Receiving a final pep-talk from our coach minutes before the game fired us up to the highest level of intensity. With our fire and our game plan, we would take to the floor knowing that we would play to win.
These rituals helped us succeed. What rituals do you use before you speak?
Pre-Game for Public Speaking (Pre-speech Rituals)?
Is there a pre-game for public speaking that you can follow? Absolutely. Each speaker prepares in his or her own way and you will have to figure out what works best for you. However, there are six ideas that you will benefit from greatly when you put them into practice each and every time before you speak. Pretend you have a speech in one hour. Here are Six Rituals you should strongly consider (along with the approximate time-frames I use) as you count down to your moment on stage:
Ritual One (60 minutes to go): Warm up your voice. Make sure your voice is ready and resonant and clear. I warm up by holding a note for a few seconds, taking a breath, and then switching to a higher note. After each breath, I hold a higher and higher note. I also make sure I’m speaking from the diaphragm rather than my throat. Once I didn’t warm up my voice. Once!
Ritual Two (60 minutes to go): Sit in the four corners of the room to check that all audience members will be able to see you from wherever they sit. Make sure there is nothing blocking their view of you. This practice also helps you understand how they will feel when they sit down to watch you. Having their vantage point, even temporarily, will force you to think more of them than you think of you. That’s exactly the path you want your mind to take before speaking.
Ritual Three (45 minutes to go): Walk around the stage or platform area to check for creaks and cracks in the stage or for anything that might be disturbing. Even more importantly, if you are using a microphone, turn it on and take it with you to check for feedback in some of the areas of the room. Walk around the entire room (not jus the stage) to make sure there’s no feedback. That way you will feel comfortable moving anywhere (including out into your audience) during your speech. If there is feedback, wouldn’t you like to know that now instead of later?
Ritual Four (45 minutes to go): While you’re up on stage, this is a good time to go over your opening lines one more time. Once you have your opening down cold, you’ll feel much more confident about the rest of your speech. Remember, you must come out with a bang not with a whimper. Knowing your opening like the back of your hand empowers you to do just that.
Ritual Five (10-15 minutes to go): As your audience members start filling in the seats, mentally send them good thoughts. Really look at each of them. For example, I usually think, “I hope you get what you need to lift your life to another level.” Or I simply think, “I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you get more than you expected from this program.” The key to sending them good thoughts is that it once again forces you to go where most speakers never go. Many speakers worry about themselves before they take the stage. The most effective speakers think about their audience. That seemingly small mental shift makes a huge difference. It’s the reason why some speakers connect and others don’t. It’s all about the right kind of energy coming through. It’s not always something audience’s can put their fingers on, but they can feel when you are speaking for them or when you are simply speaking for yourself. Speak for them.
Ritual Six (2-10 minutes to go): You’ll need one final way to ground yourself and get your energy high so that the best of you comes forward to serve your audience. Some speakers listen to inspiring music. Darren LaCroix has listened to songs such as “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner. I have listened to everything from Country to R&B to Native-American music. Whatever floats your boat is fine.
Music might not do it for you. Perhaps you will raise your energy by reading something or looking at a picture of a loved one. Whatever you need to do, just get yourself up so you can bring your audience up. This is the equivalent to my basketball coach’s pep-talk. Only this time, you’re on your own. This final walkthrough will give you a significant advantage and have you connect on a much deeper level than most speakers.
What’s the last thing you say to yourself before you take the stage?
I say the following
Please help me forget myself, remember my speech, and touch my audience in a wonderfully positive and impactful way”
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