Come with me on a journey.
Imagine, if you would, sitting in a seat with heart beating fast, hands all clammy your fear levels rising with each passing second.
Slowly, slowly we set off – a steep hill, what seems like a small mountain as we move into an uncertain future. Our mind races with other thoughts – will I be left hanging? Will it fail? What happens if I lose my grip?
All the while our journey takes us higher and higher – a little closer to our destination. Then suddenly – we stop. The ground looks distant, we feel light-headed, nervous, our life passes before our eyes.
And then we start to move, hurtling towards our destination at frightening speed. Time seems to stand still but life passes by at warp speed. Our stomach lurches – the butterflies try to fly in formation. As we move forward we twist and turn, our voice rising in terror and alarm, sometimes we are unable to speak.
Oh the excitement, the rush, the adrenalin!! Then the final corner comes towards us and our journey comes to an end sometimes quite abruptly. Our heart is still racing and we look around – “would I do that again?” “Was that exciting?”
Well – was it? Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the awesome world of…
…YES – Public speaking!! – Now own up – who here thought I was talking about rollercoasters?!!
Public speaking, making a speech in public is really like a roller coaster ride and today I’d like to share with you three top tips to help you make your journey and – hopefully – enjoy the ride. Is that OK?
Sometimes we find it hard to get going, what should my topic be? What subject can I talk about? Talking about roller coasters I remember some years ago going to Blackpool. Has anyone ever been on the Pepsi Max ride? The waiting and build up is tremendous. You stand in a queue underneath the ride and the first element stretches way above your head. It is huge and the fear starts because it feels such a long way up. Just like the speech you are trying to prepare.
It is such a long way off – what can I say, how will I say it? Will I be welcomed? – All sorts of thoughts can set us up with lots of needless worries. You then climb into the car and I remember I sat next to my friend Andy. He was scared stiff! Andy clenched the bar in front of him as we began the journey upwards all the time convincing himself of some unknown disaster. His eyes were closed and when we reached the top. The ride just paused for the minutest second he shouted – “oh my goodness what have I done?!!” I shouted back to him “come on Andy let go – enjoy the ride – put your hands in the air” His response was unrepeatable!! And just like the roller coaster journey when you are trying to think of something to say.
My top tip number one? Use a personal story.
That will get you on the right track – it will give you the confidence to speak knowing more about the subject allowing you to express yourself more and will give more heartfelt expression to the whole speech.
That part at the top – when I said the ride paused? I went to Busch Gardens last year. – Has anyone ever been? Well they have one of the most amazing rides the Sheikra. The ride up is awesome – the worst part is that it is not a car – rather you dangle from the ride. When you get on the ride the platform disappears beneath you. A little seat and a big steel harness all contribute to the fear factor rising as you take the journey to the top of the ride. At the top the car then goes over and pauses – one two three four for four whole seconds.
It’s like coming out on stage and performing in front of an audience – pause, take in the moment and then speak. Take that time to address the audience then use the ride to remember the next top tip. Use emotions, voice pitch and variety – remember the twists and turns that the roller coaster makes – well use those in your speech. Give the story life, movement – have a script so you can stay on track and use all the power of the momentum you have created from that first drop into your audience. Tip number two use vocal variety and emotion.
The final countdown
And then the final straight. Your speech should provide a hook of some sort – give the audience something to remember your speech with. On the ride themselves they take your picture on the final bend where there is some last minute up or rush to excite the adrenalin. It’s the same with your speech – give the audience pictures they can remember, verbal images, start sentences with “imagine the scene” or “picture this” and then go on to create vivid word pictures of what you can see in your mind. So top tip number three – create a mental image that will be remembered.
If you want some excitement – learn to speak in public – think about how you can ride your own roller coaster. Remember – First use a personal story, second use vocal variety and thirdly use word pictures to paint your story.
Remember speaking is like a roller coaster – be prepared for the ride of your life!