By TEDDY WAYNE
Nearly everyone gets some anxiety about public speaking — even Oscar-winning actors. Here are some tips to help you through a big speech:
Imagine everyone in the audience naked. Empathetically conjure up the array of body-image issues they must have dealt with, especially in adolescence. Alter the direction of your speech, engaging them in a group-therapy session. To make them feel comfortable, get naked.
Remember, the audience really wants you to succeed. Except that one guy in the back, Brad.
Don’t apologize for seeming nervous—the audience probably hasn’t noticed. Unless you’re sweating or stumbling over your words. If you do, apologize for it. If your sweating or stumbling gets in the way of the delivery of your apology, apologize for that. Get into an inescapable vicious cycle of apologizing and sweating/stumbling. It’s adorably charming, but only because you’re British actor Hugh Grant. Wait — you’re not Hugh Grant? Whoops. I thought I was giving public-speaking tips tailored specifically to Hugh Grant. Forget everything I said up until now.
Focus on one person in the middle of the crowd throughout your speech. Afterward, trail him home. Knock on his door. Offer an introduction like, “Hi. I’m from the speech. Earlier.” He’ll reply with something along the lines of, “I know. Um…what are you doing here?” “I thought”—you’ll stammer, searching for the right words—“I just thought we could hang out, maybe, and be friends.” “I have friends,” he’ll probably say. “And I’m with my family now.” Blurt out, too quickly, “I’m not trying to replace your family!” He’ll close the door in your face, gently, more out of pity than fear. Don’t use him as a crowd-focusing person for the next speech, because it would be weird.
Get used to the room beforehand. Walk around, check the view from the podium, sleep there for a few days, cook in the facility’s kitchen, bathe in the bathroom, develop a delusional sense of ownership over the venue, and never leave it for fear that the outside world will “infect” you.
Remember that the audience really wants you to succeed. Except for that one guy, in back, Brad. He doesn’t. But don’t think about him during your speech. Though it’s hard not to, right? He’s always so negative, with that smirk on his face. Still, block him out. Yet that smirk. It’s so smugly self-satisfied. Just don’t let him get to — argh, I can’t stand him. I’m sorry, I should be helping you, but I can’t get Brad out of my head.
Abstain from milk products before speaking. Not because some people believe that milk triggers mucus production, but because the dairy industry is responsible for a lot of the underlying political problems in this country. Seriously, I read a blog about it — I’ll send it to you.
Practice your speech on close friends beforehand. You don’t have any close friends? And that’s why you’re worried about performing onstage, because the absence of intimates in your life suggests a dearth of charisma and amiability? My fault, I still thought I was talking to the charismatic and amiable Hugh Grant.
Speak through your diaphragm. Everyone will be distracted from how bad your speech is by your bizarre employment of a cervical barrier.
Be cocky, not confident. Everyone loves a supremely arrogant person who is, at heart, deeply insecure and who takes out those vulnerabilities on weaker people. God, Brad is such a jerk. O.K., I won’t mention him again, I swear.
Outline your speech on index cards but don’t memorize it, to boost spontaneity. About halfway through, dramatically throw away your index cards and say, “You know, I had a speech prepared, but I want to talk about something that really matters to me.” Then recite, word-for-word, a carefully composed jeremiad, hidden underneath the index cards, against the nefarious dairy industry.
In your speechwriting, avoid clichés, like the plague. Getting the plague is such a cliché. (Note: this item is taken from a pamphlet on public-speaking tips from the 14th century.)
Brad is head of marketing for Big Dairy. That should tell you everything.
End your speech on a memorable anecdote filled with specific details that the audience can latch onto. One time I did this, and it worked really well.
When all else fails, screen the director’s cut of “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” You gave some amazing wedding speeches in that.