You're walking on stage and your heart starts beating out of your chest. You shake. You sweat. You sound like a robot. You forget your lines and freeze and probably turn red and then start apologizing before you continue an awful downward spiral of embarrassment. Ninjas have hijacked your brain and... wait... what are you supposed to be talking about? Did you really just forget your opening line?
Here's the good news: Chill out. You are not alone. Did you know that the number one fear other than death is public speaking? Yes, some of you would rather die than speak in front of a group of people (#drastic).
But here's the thing: Public speaking is not about perfection (who has time for that). It's not about people judging you (believe me they have better things to talk about). It's not about "speeches" anymore (no thank you, long boring commencement ceremony). Look at it with a different lens. It's about communicating who you are with confidence and content.
Think of it like talking to your friend in a casual, awesome conversation. Think of it as something fun. Not only is it one of your greatest assets through life but it helps you be superhero status comfortable in your own skin. It helps you own your message. It helps you communicate. And let's be honest: If your standing ovation talk goes online it can perhaps help you get into school, get more romantic attention, get lots of Facebook likes or all of the above. Here are five steps to going from a scary red-faced robot to a TED-like superstar:
1. You had me at hello.
Get right to it. Forget the thank you's. Forget the "How are you guys doing today?" or the "My name is blah blah from blah blah." If you tell me something in that first sentence that makes me care... you have me for the entire ride. Be provocative. Be bold. Make a statement. Give us passion. Give us something to listen to. Edit out the noise. Edit out the filler words ("however," "moreover," "in addition," "in conclusion" -- this is not a paper we are grading you on). Give Trisha 10 seconds of your time and I bet you want to keep watching to see what the heck she's talking about.
2. This is a play and you're the star.
No matter how long you have up there, you need an opening, a middle and an end. It's like a play with three acts. Your opening should grab us (check). The middle stuff: Tell us a story. Make us laugh, Make us cry. Bring us on this journey with you. Try not to use too many quotes from others. Try not to use too many references. You are talking because we want to hear what you have to say.
Now for that last line: Make us remember it. Is it an action item? Is it a statement? Whatever it is, end it with power and conviction -- because whatever you talked about for say, 18 minutes, we're going to remember that last line most. Own it. Why thank you David Saddington, I will let you know how climate change affects me.
3. Keep it moving.
Be careful with memorizing word for word. Use an outline. Use slides or photos not just to help tell your story but to keep you on track. If you forget or fumble do not, I repeat (most important thing ever), do NOT apologize to your audience. If you do, you lose their trust. Take a few seconds. Regroup yourself (it feels longer to you than it does to us I promise). Reboot. Dive back in. Come back stronger than ever. Even if it's not what you rehearsed that's okay. Keep it moving. We don't know the difference. So stay confident and act like this is the way it was supposed to go. You know your story better than anyone. So just tell it. Patrick Kane has quite the story. He's bionic and now you want to become it too.
4. Everyone is in their underwear.
It doesn't begin when you start speaking. From the moment you walk on that stage -- it's yours. It's not just about your words. It's about your body language and engagement with the room. Whatever you need to do to feel comfortable do it. That good old "tip" that everyone is in their underwear might not work for you. Some plan ahead to know where a close friend or family member will be sitting so you can pretend you are just talking to them. But the one that I love the most is take a moment once you get in place to feel the space to look into the audience -- then forget they exist. Focus on something like a light in the back. Bring the attention back into your mind and just focus on you. It's not about them. Who cares about that cell phone ringing? Who cares about that person walking out the door? It doesn't matter. What matters is you. Dress like you. Talk like you. Don't give us anything but your most authentic self. Gabi knows how to command an audience. She is as authentic as you get. She took risks. She bared her soul. She took us on her journey. We danced, we cried, we clapped.
5. Mirrors, dogs and strangers.
Okay, okay, some people yes, are just naturally more comfortable and confident speaking in front of people. And I'm going to share the number one best kept secret when it comes to public speaking: Practice!
Wow, who would have thought? Even if you're going to "wing it," you still need to practice. Many of us run our talks in front of our bathroom mirror over and over. Change location as much as possible. The problem with rehearsing in the same physical space over and over is that when it comes to the real thing you will probably not be doing this in your mom's bathroom. Muscle memory is a bigger deal than you think. Every time you rehearse do it from a different location. Tell it to your dog, on your walk home from school. Ask a bunch of your friends if you can run it with them. The more you do it, and from the more places you do it from, the more it will brand into your brain. Then when it comes to showtime you just speak it from your heart. It will just flow. Feel the flow with Ankit and you'll never look at social media the same again.
Public speaking also helps build community. It helps connect you with like-minded people and it forces you to hone in on what is most important to you. It forces you to literally look in the mirror and make sure you like what you see.
In a world where we are all hiding behind computer screens most of the day, we need those nerves, that sweat, that moment of memory lapse to remind us that we are still human. To feel that rush of adrenaline and excitement.
You're on that stage. The lights are bright. The countdown clock begins....
Watch all TEDxTeen London Talks here: http://www.tedxteen.com/
Have an incredible story, idea, invention to share? Apply to be a TEDxTeen speaker today! http://www.tedxteen.com
Jess is the curator for TEDxTeen.