TED conferences see speakers from all over the world come together to share their knowledge on a specific subject. The conferences are attended by large audiences and are streamed online to an even larger audience.
With this in mind, it is understandable that some speakers get a little nervous. TED speaker coaches offer support to the speakers before their talk, offering tips and advice. Gina Barnett is one of the coaches currently working at TED and she has offered the following tips:
1. Drink some water 15 minutes before you begin
If you tend to suffer from a dry mouth when you give speeches, the microphone may pick up the sticky sound when you try to swallow. To avoid this Gina recommends you start drinking water 15 minutes before you begin.
2. Avoid negative self-talk
Gina says you should be psyching yourself up, not out. This means, instead of thinking “What if I mess up?”, you should be thinking “I am so excited for this!”, “I can’t wait to share this idea!” and “This will be great!”. This is what athletes do before a big race and it can help to boost your confidence.
3. When the adrenaline hits, focus on your breath
If/when the nerves start to kick in, Gina advises you to breathe, “We’re often not aware of how shallow our breath becomes when we’re nervous or stressed”. Try the following exercise: breathe in and out three or four times smoothly and evenly paced. Let your belly go soft and take the breath to the bottom of your abdomen. This can help to centre your thoughts and focus your energy.
4. Think about the way you move
Certain movements can become a distraction on stage, but staying totally still can be seen as dull. Gina says “You can walk, but don’t pace”. Pacing or swaying can create a lull. Instead, Gina recommends moving to make a point. For example, at times when you want to make a new point, try moving closer to the audience.
5. Focus on something outside of yourself
Gina’s favourite exercise for those about to go on stage is called ‘focusing out’. To do this, simply pick something outside of yourself to focus on. An example of this could be the colour green – try to look out for anything green around you. Doing this will shift your focus from your feelings to something outside, which should help you to relax.
6. Remember the audience likes you
No matter how big the audience is, remember that they are on your side. They want to hear what you have to say and even if they don’t agree with you, they want to see you succeed up there.
7. Be OK with the unexpected
You can prepare until you’re blue in the face, but it is important to be OK with the unexpected. If something happens that catches you off guard, just roll with it and laugh it off – after all, it’s supposed to be fun!