At this point, we all know that public speaking is feared more than death. No surprises there, but in all these years that we’ve been throwing out these stats, why are we still here? It might be something to bring up the human reactions of fight or flight – why we succeed or freeze when we’re in situations of public speaking and presentation skills, but beyond that, we still have to do it – whether we like it or not. Because of that exciting fact, it’s in your best interest to get better – here are three tips to nail your next presentation, all focused and grounded in improv:
Practice like you play
I performed off-Broadway for almost 10 years, toured with a few national tours based in improv and performed in my fair share of Chicagoland improv. We rehearsed for everything – even in my NYC years, we rehearsed every single Wednesday evening in prep for our weekend shows, and it showed when we didn’t. Worse, it showed when we didn’t take rehearsal seriously and just screwed around the entire time.
When you practice in a lax manner, you’re going to play in that same lax manner.
If you’re practicing whatever you’re going to do that matters to you in a way that shows it DOES NOT matter, do you know how that’s going to look when the moment is here? It’s going to look like it doesn’t matter to you. Worse, if you don’t practice? It’s going to show.
Before every show I’ve ever done, we warmed up. Anything from running around to get energy up to quick thinking games to singing and getting in the moment. Why warm-up? Well, would you warm up before a run? Yeah? Same idea! We use muscles to speak and when we’re talking for an extended period of time and don’t warm up, we end up losing our voice, tripping on words and forgetting what we’re supposed to be doing because we aren’t tapped into the moment.
Raise your stakes
No one wants to see an ordinary moment in an improv show. They want to see an ELEVATED moment that is heightened from the every day. When you raise the stakes in improv moments, you suddenly start to care quite a bit more and things matter.
In real life, if you start to raise the stakes, things start to matter a bit more and you start investing more energy and care into what you’re saying. Don’t let this slide all the way to feeling neurotic about everything – because it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake – at the same time, if you invest more energy and care into what you’re doing, it’s going to show.
BONUS: Fail often. The more you fail in public speaking moments, the more you learn, and the better you get. If you keep playing it safe, you’re going to end up in the same place you started: being nervous about public speaking.