Posts tagged public speaking practice
7 Life lessons from Improv

When I told a business acquaintance that I was starting improv classes, she replied “I bet you’re great at that.”

This struck a chord. She assumed that I was already great at improv or that it came naturally because I teach people about public speaking.

I felt myself tense up, for a moment believing that I should already know everything there is to know about improvising. Then I remembered why I signed up for a class.

I wanted to learn. Improv is fun, and hard, and awkward. Like anything else, it takes practice.

I get up in front of groups regularly and teach workshops, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still learning.

For some, performing comes naturally, For others, you might dread being the center of attention. But you don’t have to be a natural performer to be a great public speaker.

I just finished an 8-week Improv class at Magnet Theater and I wanted to share 7 life lessons I learned from improv:

  1. Doing silly things with strangers is fun - sure it’s awkward but it's also hilarious and it builds trust.

  2. You don't have to know everything. In fact, it's a huge relief when you realize you’re supported by a team of other people who can help you figure things out

  3. When in doubt, mirror what your partner is doing - imagine if you applied this concept the next time you’re in a situation where you don’t know the answer.

  4. Listening is vital. As a naturally quiet person, listening was already a strength but knowing you have to respond to what your scene partner is doing makes you pay attention on a deeper level.

  5. Let go of control - if you spend all your time planning what you’re going to say, it might be completely irrelevant by the time it’s your turn. You might miss the most important details, you might miss all the fun.

  6. Commit - you might be unsure but if you look certain it will be easier to get other people on board.

  7. Pretend - if you’re scared, do it anyway. Pretend you feel confident. Eventually you will.


Improv is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating. It requires letting go of control (#scary) and trusting the people you’re working with.

I can recall a time when improv would have been my worst nightmare and now it feels fun.

So remember, however you feel about your presentation skills today, those feelings can change.

It’s okay to start at the beginning.

It’s okay to not know the answer.

It’s okay to still be learning.

Not quite ready for improv classes? I understand.

There are other ways to get started.

Grab 4 steps to a Winning Work Presentation to prep for presentations, even if you have no time, so you can stop freaking out and start communicating like the expert.


Practice Your Talk on the Subway

This might sound crazy, but the subway is a perfect place to practice your

public speaking.

What?! Yes, that’s right!


I practice while I’m commuting and I encourage clients to practice on the train, in the car, or while you’re walking to work.

This is my favorite life hack for all those folks

who don’t think they have time to practice.

Imagine how productive your commute could be if you used 10 or 15 minutes of your travel time to practice a presentation instead of scrolling through social media.

People often ask if I’m worried about looking crazy. NOT at all.

This is New York City and there are far weirder things! No one is paying attention.

If you’re self conscious, put in your headphones – people will think you’re listening to music.

This is a great technique to get used to distractions. You can even record yourself practicing while you’re on the subway or waiting at an empty section on the platform.

Want a few more practice ideas you may not have thought of?

  1. Take an Improv class. Magnet Theater, UCB and The PIT all offer classes. Read about my experience taking improv in 7 Life Lessons from Improv

  2. Go to a city council meeting and talk about an issue in your neighborhood.

  3. Host a dinner party and give a presentation for your friends.

  4. Check out Toastmasters. Find a club here and find me at Heights Toastmasters twice a month.

  5. Practice for your neighbors. It’s a great way to get to know people.

  6. Practice for your dog, or your cat or your lizard. It’s #3 in 7 Practice Strategies to Ace Your Presentation.

Want more practice ideas?

Download 7 Practice Strategies to Ace Your Presentation.

Don’t Look LIke a ROBOT

I saw Grace Bonney speak at Creative Mornings last week. Grace is founder of the successful blog Design Sponge. She talked about the importance of in-person connection. Her message: 
 

"Real people matter, real life experiences matter, and what happens on the internet matters a whole lot less."
 

If you have the chance to speak in front of other people, focus on connection and the fact that your audience wants to hear from you. You may not relish being in the spotlight, you might be nervous, but if you have the opportunity to share your work in real life, seize it!

Focus on the fact that you’re talking to other people. And remember that your audience wants to hear from you.
 

Don’t look like a robot and use these 3 strategies to build connection:


1. Look Them in the Eye

I know it can feel scary standing at the front of the room with all eyes on you. If you’re nervous or shy, eye contact might be the last thing you want to focus on. But consider this:

Your audience wants to know you’re talking to them.

So look them straight in the eye.

People often ask how to make contact with a big room of people. Here's a Tip: Look at one person at a time and tell them a whole thought. Then, move on to another person and tell them your next thought. With practice it will get easier. 


2. Smile

If you’re nervous and don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway. 

Smiling helps you relax.


It triggers different hormones in the body and when you smile, people in the audience are more likely to smile back at you. It will make the experience more fun, and if you're having fun so will your audience.

 

3. Be curious

Find out who your audience is and make sure your topic interests them. For instance, you might research them in advance and find out their profession, age range, and educational background. Once you know more about the audience, tailor your content to suit them.
 

Want more strategies to build your speaking confidence and an opportunity to practice live with other creatives?

Don’t miss the next Speak with Impact Workshop on March 5th! Details and tickets here.