Communication Rebel Blog

A Backstage Tour of How I Prepare for Speaking Gigs

Get ready for a big speaking gig

Clients always want to know if I still get nerves before a speaking gig.

The answer is HECK, YES. The days running up to a speaking gig tend to be stressful for me. I practice, I rehearse, and I tweak.

The morning of a speaking gig I’m a bag full of nerves, and my routine is what makes it all happen.

Most speakers have a routine that they rely on to make it all happen. I’ve learned that routines vary widely, but most speakers agree you must have one.

So here is an inside glimpse of how I get ready to take the stage the day of a presentation. (Feel free to steal away or come up with your own).

Maintain my sanity by maintaining my habits.

I don’t treat the day I give a speech as a special occasion. In order to keep calm and speak on, I must maintain my morning Five-minute journal. It's a part of my speaking day.routine.

I’d love to tell you about my intense 2-hour meditation session, followed by a vigorous run, and then Bikram yoga – but it would be all LIES.

This is how I actually start my day:

I roll over, grab my phone, and check Instagram. I freaking LOVE instagram. People are so positive and the pictures are beautiful. No one bitches on Instagram (and you can follow me here if you’d like).

I write in my five-minute journal, flip through my goal cards, and then start the onboarding of caffeine. Because nobody wants to deal with me until I’ve had my coffee except for my cats.

Let’s get physical

I’m walkin – yes indeed. Before every speaking gig, I get physical. I love walking my neighborhood on a sunny, Seattle day. When it rains, I hit the gym down the street.

Why?

Moving burns off adrenaline.

Why you feel so crappy before a speaking gig is because your body is pumping adrenaline into your body. Those sweaty palms, foggy mind, shaky voice, and the flip-flop of your stomach – that’s all adrenaline’s fault.

Exercise burns off adrenaline and studies have shown that the calming effect of exercise lasts up to 8 hours afterwards.

It doesn’t magically take away all of my nerves, but it definitely takes the edge off.

Making a list and checking it twice

After the walk, I recheck my gear. I pack up my gear the night before, but I’m obsessive. I like to recheck (and recheck again) to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

what I need for a speaking gig

Look at all my stuff…and that's just my book table

Here’s my checklist:

  • Laptop
  • VGA Adapter for Macbook
  • Clicker
  • Slides
  • Handouts
  • Speaker introduction
  • Water bottle (Speakers need to hydrate, yo!)
  • Books
  • Square card reader
  • Business cards
  • Postcards
  • Table cloth
  • Candy
  • Flowers (I love having flowers at my speaking table. I’ve got a HUGE thing for flowers. Please send me some or tell my hubby…)

Honestly, I feel like I am packing up for the circus when I go to a speaking gig. I don’t travel LIGHT, but I like to be prepared.

Put on my game face

Choose my speaking outfit (I only have 3 dresses I wear for speaking), put on my makeup, do my hair, and accessorize.

Backstage before a speaking gig

I'm all dolled up and mic'd up – ready to go!

One of the greatest gifts I ever gave myself was before I spoke at Business Theatre Live (which was going to be video’d) was going to a style bar to get my makeup done and my hair blown out.

It made me feel like a pro.

I loved leaving my house with no makeup on and my hair tousled (ok I’ve got serious bed head most mornings) and then walking on stage feeling like a million bucks.

If you’re going to be on film (ladies and gents too), hire someone to get you glammed up for the center stage.

You can thank me later.

Be the early bird

Always, always, always get to your speaking gigs EARLY.

I like to be the first one there. To walk the stage. Test the tech. Set up my table. Speak to the person who is introducing me. See how the room is setup and mingle with the audience.

It calms me to meet people beforehand. To hear their stories (and sometimes incorporate them into my speech…which is a pro move when you do it well).

The bonus is the meeting planner is never worried that you’re going to be late or aren’t going to show up. You’re there mixing, mingling and making sure the event is a success.

It’s showtime

I always take the stage the same way.

I listen intently to my speaker introduction. Looking at the person who is introducing and smiling.

I walk out on stage. Feet hip width apart. For a brief moment, I feel the Earth under my feet to ground me. I smile, take a deep breath and begin.

That's my pre-gig routine. It's the same whether speaking in my backyard or across the country.

What about you?

Does any of this resonate with you? What special steps do you go through to prepare for a presentation? What really works for you? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

And stay tuned, there is more to do to prepare for speaking gigs than what goes on BEFORE you speak.  There are things to do AFTER you speak that are just as important…

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