During and after my performance: on home plate and post performance with mayor of SF Willie Brown (1996 – 2004)
Does public speaking or performance make you nervous? Nerves can get the best of us under the best of circumstances. On Flag Day (June 14) many moons ago, I sang the National Anthem at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. It was the Giants vs. the Astros, and me against a crowd of thousands. It turns out that nerves are a biological condition. At the time, I didn’t know about beta-blockers, which help to lower blood pressure and are used by some people to calm themselves when performing in public. I was a wreck, but luckily from home plate it was hard to see all of my family and friends in the box high above.
Cool, Calm, Collected
Ernest Hemingway’s famous words ring true even today: “Courage is grace under pressure.” No matter how much we practice or rehearse, things can go wrong. Such is life. But when it happens in front of a large crowd, your speech may be remembered for how you said it vs. what you said.
Tips to Stay on Message
- Ditch the notes. Unscripted is the key.
- Tell your story. This will be much more compelling than a typed speech.
- Avoid too many details unless you’re a linguistics professor. You don’t want to look out and see yawns.
- Know your topic and be prepared for questions.
- Prepare and practice. It does make perfect.
- Run through the speech with friends or videotape yourself.
- Practice in front of a mirror. This is your best audience. It will also help with posture and facial expressions.
- Breathe deeply for 30 seconds before you go onstage.
- Keep a glass of water nearby to hydrate.
- Focus on what you’re saying vs. what the audience may be thinking about you.
- Inject humor whenever possible, then pause for hoped-for audience laughter.
- If you make a mistake, make a joke about it. If you laugh, so will the audience.
- Project confidence. And remember: It’s all in the delivery.