Last week I was invited to a Christmas carol service hosted by a local law firm and held at Shrewsbury School.
It was a beautiful service in an atmospheric setting and lessons were read by members of the firm’s staff.
As you might expect, I spent most of my time trying to detect nerves and apprehension in those reading the lessons and I have to say they all did a fantastic job of masking their butterflies and delivered their readings beautifully but it reminded me how, at this time of year, many of us find ourselves roped in to reading in church or at a seasonal gathering of some kind and so I thought I would share my top 5 public speaking tips for Christmas, guaranteed to make you feel more confident when your time comes to stand up and perform.
1. Preparation. Take time to familiarise yourself with the text. Not just by reading to yourself but by reading aloud in the privacy of your own room, bathroom or hilltop. Read aloud to the dog or cat if needs be but take time to hear what the words sound like when read aloud.
2. More Preparation. Format a version of the text in a large clear font (extra large if like me you need reading glasses to see pretty much anything these days), and print onto lightweight card or laminated paper. Rigid card moves less in a nervous pair of hands.
3. Don’t Forget to Breathe. As you walk to the lectern/stage/front of house pull yourself up to your full height and breath deeply to get as much oxygen into your system as possible. Feeling nervous can cause us to feel light headed too so the more deep breaths you can manage the better.
4. At The Lectern. Arrange your papers neatly and pause. Allow the audience time to stop fidgeting and, more importantly, allow yourself that last moment to compose yourself. Don’t feel the need to rattle through the reading or speech. Take your time. This stuff is important.
5. Pitch, Pace and Pause. During the reading drop your voice slightly (a bit like you might do when speaking on the telephone) nerves often make us speak in a higher pitch so try to unleash your inner Joanna Lumley or Anthony Hopkins (showing my age there). Slow things right down from the start, it’s almost impossible to read something too slowly in fact the slower you read the more impact each word with have and remember to pause and the end of each sentence. This gives you time to breathe and allows the audience time to process what you just said.
If you allow yourself to remember all of the above you will not only deliver a great reading or speech but I suspect you might just find you enjoy the whole process and that’s a very nice feeling indeed.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a peaceful new year.