Friday, February 15, 2013

Winging It

We've all been there.  You have an important business presentation coming up.  You're the keynote speaker at a prestigious event.  You're expected to speak at a meeting.  You have practiced and practiced and practiced some more.  And then, the moment arrives and all your rehearsing is for nothing because you have suddenly forgotten all that you were supposed to say.  What do you do now?  According to the experts, don't panic - wing it!

If the thought of improvising your speech or presentation at the last minute gives you cold chills, there are some techniques you can use to help.

1.  Relax.  This may be difficult but you will find it easier to think if you remain calm.  Take a few deep breaths, give yourself some silent but positive encouragement and go for it.

2.  This is one instance where silence is not golden.  Long periods of dead air will definitely let everyone know that something is not quite right.  However, you can use silence to your advantage if you use it sparingly.  So if necessary, take a minute to collect your thoughts.   

3.  Don't edit yourself.  Go with your first instinct.  Dead air results while you are busy second-guessing yourself and trying to come up with exactly the right thing to say.  Trust your gut and speak what's on your mind.

4.  Talk with your hands.  Seriously.  Researchers found that people with unrestricted gestures were more fluent than people who had their arms immobilized.  So take your hands out of your pockets.  Stop clenching them together in front of you or behind your back.

5.  Don't try to be flawless.  Your audience hasn't read your speech so they won't know if it isn't letter perfect.  Instead of focusing on trying to recall exactly what you were going to say, focus on communicating your ideas and serving your audience to the best of your ability.

6.  Speak clearly.  Mumbling or using "umm" after every other word decreases your audience's confidence in what you are saying. Speak in a strong voice, pay attention to your grammar, and use the appropriate level of formality.

Winging it doesn't mean running ahead full throttle without thought.  It means staying in control of the situation.  Use these techniques and you'll  impress your audience, and yourself, with your confidence and poise.  They'll never know your mind went blank - unless you tell them.

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