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Mastering Speaking Engagements: Preparing, Nerves, and Maintaining Focus

Speaking engagements can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, from preparing engaging content to managing pre-event jitters, and ensuring unwavering focus throughout long sessions, there's a lot to consider. To gain valuable insights into effective preparation and strategies for conquering nerves, we reached out to experienced speakers within the Aspiring Women Speakers community. In this blog post, we explore their advice, practical rituals, and techniques to help you effectively prepare for, and most importantly enjoy your upcoming speaking engagements.

Speaking to Alicja Ogonowska, Flutter Developer with Equiqo, we were able to establish that being fully prepared the night before is essential. Of this, Alicja stated "my tip on sleeping better the night before a talk is having everything prepared before going to bed... Then during the night, I can only dread the speaking itself, not forgetting about something I should have brought with me." Alicja goes on to mention that she no longer heavily relies on speaker notes, due to experiencing technical issues in the past whereby the notes were not available to her at the time of her speaking engagement, she now omits these to further reduce stress and worry.

Alex Radu, VP Product Adoption & Marketing at JPMorgan Chase & Co., weighed in on the topic of preparation by emphasising the value of rehearsals and thorough preparation: "having presentation speaker notes and rehearsing a lot...the more prepared I am, the less nerves I have." On the topic of maintaining focus, Alex mentions that audience engagement is key and that by regularly including a “question, poll, exercise” you are allowing yourself a short break from speaking.

Carly Richmond, Developer Advocate at Elastic, stresses the importance of enjoying the moment despite nerves: "I always chill with a green tea just before my slot and turn up early to set up... It's such an exhilarating thing to speak in public, and the audience do want you to succeed." Like Alicja, Carly also readies herself the night before by making sure that she has everything that she needs, including spares. Additionally, on the topic of preparing for the engagement in the days prior, Carly states that she does ‘run-throughs every morning for at least a week’ to help herself become acquainted with the slide order and to ensure that the links are correct.

Lauren Schaefer, Staff Developer Advocate at Grammarly, emphasises the significance of rehearsals; of this she states "rehearsals are the key for me. I do a dry-run of a new talk in front of someone else, either a speaking coach or a peer, about 2 weeks ahead of the event so I can feel confident in the material and presentation. Then I make any changes I need to based on their feedback and do a full dry-run on my own every day the week before the talk”. Lauren also shines a spotlight on the normality of pre-event nerves by explaining that even though she is a seasoned public speaker, she still gets nervous on the day of the event. Summarising her thoughts on nerves she voices that ‘nerves are normal’.

Parveen Khan, Senior QA Consultant at Thoughtworks, highlights the value of comfort when presenting a talk, voicing that both the clothes that you wear and following certain rituals (such as engaging with people and making sure that you are familiar with the stage) prior to your presentation are paramount. Parveen also goes on to speak of rehearsing her presentation, stating that “rehearsals and feedback help me with managing my nerves. I try to do dry-runs with a few people and practice on my own as well”.

Mastering speaking engagements requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses thorough preparation, effective nerve management, and unwavering focus. Through the insights shared by experienced speakers within the Aspiring Women Speakers community, we have gained valuable strategies and practical rituals to help us excel in these areas.

Remember, each speaker's approach may resonate differently, so it is essential to experiment and find what works best for us individually. With the guidance provided, we are better equipped to navigate the challenges and embrace the opportunities that come with speaking engagements.


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