“Manage” the Butterflies
By Mimi Donaldson
a manager, you have many opportunities to speak in front of groups of
people. You have to. Research shows public speaking is the number one
fear of people. Death is number five. So when you say, "I'd
rather die than go up in front of the room,” you're not kidding.
Almost everyone experiences some degree of nervousness when they have
to be a "speaker,” whether it is a formal presentation in front
of a group twenty-five, presenting information to someone
"important,” or being called on in a meeting to answer a
question. Your heart starts pounding loudly, your throat constricts,
the face feels hot and you're "on.” For most people this
feeling will never go away completely. We may never truly banish the
butterflies; the best we can do is "manage” them to fly in a
straight line. Here
are some tips to do just that.
worry about nervousness, but the body produces extra energy at moments
of perceived danger, which is normal and good. In primitive times,
that energy saved us from wild beasts by enabling us to run faster
than we thought possible. We've all been awed by tales of moms who
experience super-human energy, and become strong enough to lift an
auto off their suffering child with their bare hands. But that same
energy in front of a group, can come out as nervousness, which is
distracting to our listeners. The rule is: it's okay to be nervous, as
long as it doesn't show. How do we hide our knocking knees and quivery
voice from our audience? Instead of suppressing your energy, learn to
release it. Put more energy behind your message through the five
channels of your body. They are: eyes, hands, voice, feet and body.
Eyes - the most
important channel to give out your energy and your message. Eye
contact conveys credibility, sincerity, interest and involvement with
your message and your audience. Don't flit your eyes - it makes you
look nervous. Stay with one person for a complete thought; then switch
to someone in another part of the room. Make sure all the listeners
feel the energy pour out through your eyes. No staring, please.
Hands - You cannot
plan what to do with your hands. They will move naturally if and when
you're giving out enough energy through your eyes and your voice. If
your voice is a low monotone and your eyes are downcast, you hands are
simply not motivated to move. When hand energy is suppressed, it comes
out as fidgeting. People wring their hands, pull a finger,
"pray,” imitate a spider doing push-ups on a mirror, play with
coins in their pocket. Be aware and stop doing those things -- they
distract your listener. Don't concentrate on your hands; concentrate
on projecting your energy through your eyes and voice. And use your
hands to support your message: to show spatial relationships,
movement, size and to emphasize points.
Voice - Don’t worry
about it cracking. People want you to be real. Focus on five
Pace - not too fast or too slow.
Intonation - ups and downs; variety in the voice.
Tone - attitude or emotion in the voice. Stay clean - you can
unwittingly project anger or impatience or insecurity.
Volume - not too loud or too soft.
Non-words - get rid of “like,” "really,” "you
know,” "okay?” Trust the silence, but remember to fill it
Feet - Balance your
weight on the balls of both feet, not the heels. Be poised like an
athlete ready to go when you are channeling energy. Watch out for
aimless pacing and the opposite: being planted in one spot may cause
you to sway with the suppressed energy. Release the energy through the
feet. Walk forward a couple of steps if you feel passionate about a
point you're making.
Body - Posture please.
You don't want to look nervous by being hunched over. Clothes
shouldn’t be distracting either. Make sure they fit. Have someone
check you over before you speak. You can't see if your collar is
turned up in back, but some nitpicker in your audience will. Make your
energy work for you, not against you. When you suppress it, it comes
out as nervousness anyway. Give the energy away through your eyes,
hands, voice, feet and body. Be impassioned about your subject. If
you’re not impassioned — fake it. Managers are people who get the
job done whether they feel like it or not. Professionals are people
who speak even when they don't feel like it. Use your energy to get
those butterflies flying in a straight line, and your audience won't
even know they're there.
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