Start with a script to make sure you stay on the rails.

A surprising number of humans have a major fear of public speaking. Or maybe it’s just surprising if you are not one of them. I have no issue giving a speech, presentation or eulogy. Although I do limit eulogies to one per person.

I once had a supervisor ask me if I ever got nervous about public speaking. I replied, ‘I get nervous that they’ll cut me off.’ But a major reason I feel comfortable speaking in front of others is that I prepare.

When I address an audience I often begin in a way that feels very informal. Usually there is some kind of ice breaker or introductory humor. But what appears to be a casual start to my talks is designed.

I learned many years ago that my energy and my eagerness to talk about anything can work against me if I am not careful. I can start a presentation or speech hard and fast with loads of enthusiasm. But that can approach can feel like bull riding, with lots of surprising jumps and turns, but not much forwards progress.

To control the story flow, and make sure I hit the key points I need to hit upfront, I use a special technique: I always script my opening.

Even if I am only given a brief moment to prepare to speak I use all the time I have to craft my opening. I know the first word, sentence, and paragraph, cold. (Which means I have it memorized, not the my knowledge is temperature-dependent.)

I have found that if the first 60 seconds of my talks are predetermined, everything goes well. I spend time learning and perfecting that opening. And by delivering that well, I know I am staying on track. Then, like a freight train, I find my rhythm and follow the track all the way to the destination.

Key Takeaway

Whenever you speak in public script your opening. By organizing your introductory words and ideas you will point your speech, presentation, or toast in the intended direction. When the beginning goes well, it is easy to relax, enjoy and pick up momentum as you roll. Preparation is the best way to minimize your fear or anxiety. And it’s the best way to do your best every time you talk.

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