A public-speaking coach gives 5 tips for nailing your first performance or meeting back in person

woman speaking public speaking
Public speaking doesn’t have to be scary – again.

  • Eileen Smith is a public-speaking coach and frequent keynote speaker.
  • She suggests planning how you’ll project a professional image when returning to offices and venues.
  • Connect with the audience before you speak, make eye contact, and move with purpose, she says.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I can feel the electricity in the room when I’m in front of a live audience. I know if there’s spirited conversation before the event begins, and I can read people’s faces and body language.

Eileen Smith
Eileen Smith.

All these cues feed my energy and how I project it back to my listeners.

Of course, when everything moved online during the pandemic, I had to figure out how to get these cues back. I found myself reaching out through chat rooms and using polls to take the pulse of my virtual audiences.

As we move back to the office again, even if it’s in a hybrid workplace, many of our public-speaking skills might be a little rusty. Here are five ways to dust yours off and excel in that first in-person gathering.

Read more: 10 tips for landing and delivering your own TEDx talk, from a TEDx speaker whose talk has over 15 million views

Remember your performance starts when you enter the room

The beginning of an event or meeting is not the time to tuck into your phone or study your notes. When you enter a venue, your performance has already begun.

Project a strong executive presence by walking in with your eyes up and shoulders back. Say hello to people you know and introduce yourself to people you don’t. Engage in conversation until the meeting begins. Greet everyone like a boss or old friend.

For a more formal speaking event, once you’re set up with your technology and materials, stand by the door and introduce yourself to people as they arrive. If you’re holed away in a green room, you can find your fellow speakers or even a few staffers to talk with.

This approach has a few advantages. First, it gives you the opportunity to ask people what brings them in and what they most want to learn from this event. Then weave their stories or questions into your talk to make it more personal.

Second, keeping yourself involved in conversation until the event begins may help calm your nerves. Otherwise, you might spend those last minutes building anxiety about how your first foray back into a live audience will go.

Third, audience members who have had a chance to say hello will feel more connected to you as a speaker.

Make eye contact

Your goal when speaking in person is to make actual eye contact. Don’t look above your audience at the back wall, don’t stare at a spot on the table, and don’t look at the forest, but miss the trees.

I like to separate my audience into three sections. In each section, I seek out my new best friend. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve met this person before. I’m looking for someone who’s giving me positive feedback – smiling and nodding at what I have to say.

Once you’ve found your three new best friends, one for each section of your audience, take turns making direct eye contact with them while you’re speaking.

Wait until you reach a punctuation mark in your sentence before you move on to your next best friend. This helps you regulate your eye movement. If you switch between people too fast, you risk giving off the windshield-wiper effect. If you linger on one person for too long, it can become uncomfortable.

Gesture with meaning

At home on a video screen, small gestures are the rule. Perhaps you’ve been consciously keeping your gestures within the camera frame so they aren’t lost from view. Or perhaps the low-key work-from-home environment has depleted your inspiration for big gestures.

Either way, in person you can spread out.

If you’re someone who naturally talks with your hands, that’s wonderful. However, make a recording of yourself on your phone so you can check to see that your hands are saying what you think they’re saying. A little emphasis is good. Too much is, well, too much.

An important thing to keep in mind after hunching in your home office for so long is to keep your posture strong and body open. Crossed arms, hands clasped down in front like a fig leaf, and fidgeting with your hands are signs of discomfort.

Look self-assured by deploying confident hand gestures. Steepling “is a universal display of confidence and is often used by those in a leadership position,” Joe Navarro, a retired FBI agent and author, told Insider. You can also try nesting your hands together lightly or holding them separately at your midsection. Hands down by your sides is another confident position. This is a favorite for many world leaders, as seen at the recent G7 Summit

Move with purpose

Moving around when you’re speaking in front of people is an effective way to hold their attention.

Step to one side of the stage or conference room to connect with that part of the audience. Stay there until you finish your thought. Try out that solid eye contact. Then move to the other side of the stage or another spot. Finish your thought before you move again.

Be measured in your movement. When you’re standing still, avoid shuffling, tapping, or otherwise letting your legs betray your nervous energy. When you’re not walking, take a strong stance, keep your posture straight, and hold your feet firm.

Treat nerves as excitement and energy

Keep in mind that your audience wants you to succeed – if only for the simple reason that it’s uncomfortable to watch someone who’s outwardly nervous. Turn that tension into positive energy and project confidence on the outside.

If your nerves are threatening to get the best of you, take a moment. “The breath is a direct line to the nervous system and the brain,” Tara Antonipillai, a corporate wellness expert, told Insider. “Remind yourself that you can turn off the panic response in the brain and turn on that thinking reasoning part of the brain by simply slowing down and deepening the breath.”

Also, try mentally reframing your nervous reaction into excitement. Build your confidence through preparation and practice, print your notes as a safety net in case you forget what you want to say, and focus your thoughts on all the wonderful things that can happen, instead of thinking about what might go wrong.

Eileen Smith is a public-speaking coach, keynote speaker, and former diplomat. Find her tips to help business executives, policy experts, and rising professionals achieve preparation, confidence, and career success at Spokesmith.com.

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How to stop second guessing yourself and overcome imposter syndrome at work

woman writing thinking
Overthinking can hold you back and make it difficult to move forward.

  • Executive coach Melody Wilding helps people navigate their careers and find work-life balance.
  • She says overthinking and second guessing can prevent us from being confident in decisions at work.
  • To move forward, interrupt the thought, root yourself in the present, and redirect your thinking.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

How do I stop second-guessing myself?

This was a question one of my clients, Sarah, came to coaching with.

Sarah was an accomplished manager and executive. During her career, she had earned two PhDs and over the course of twenty years, worked her way from the legal department to director of business development at a luxury retail company.

One year earlier, the CEO had tasked Sarah with starting a sub-division within the business development department to focus specifically on innovation. This meant her team was responsible for creating and implementing cutting-edge strategies to modernize the company’s marketing and distribution channels.

As a Sensitive Striver, Sarah was thoughtful, empathetic, and skilled at spotting opportunities others missed – a combination of skill which made her a perfect fit to lead the team.

But Sarah had started her career as a lawyer and operated under the false belief she had no idea what she was doing. The thought of building the innovation team filled her with imposter syndrome. She doubted whether she had what it took to get the job done and make their work a success.

Soon, her insecurity started to hold her back in other ways, namely in terms of her ability to make decisions. Sarah often found herself overthinking choices – both big and small – which stressed her out and slowed the team’s progress. She had trouble trusting her own judgment, and instead sought excessive amounts of outside approval before making a call.

Most of all, Sarah was constantly second-guessing herself.

After she would eventually make a decision, she would find herself preoccupied by all the what if’s (What if we had chosen direction B? What if X wouldn’t have happened? etc). She would toss and turn at night (and feel distracted at his desk during the day) by thoughts of whether he could have made a better choice.

In other words, Sarah couldn’t stop ruminating.

What is rumination?

Ruminating is a type of overthinking that involves obsessing over the same thoughts. Typically these are “dead-end” thoughts that aren’t productive, positive, or useful. It’s as if your mind is a record, stuck on the same track that keeps playing over and over – hence the second-guessing.

When you’re ruminating, you’re dwelling and living in the past. You analyze and replay situations over and over. You may rehash conversations, dissect people’s body language, and stress about what you did or didn’t say.

When it comes to decision-making, ruminating can look like:

  • Beating yourself up for making a decision too slowly.
  • Wondering if there were better options.
  • Replaying missteps or mistakes you made.
  • Worrying about other people’s reactions and judgments.

Thinking about a decision can be helpful – especially if it leads to a resolution or provokes new solutions and insight. But rumination doesn’t do that. It simply causes distress and drains you of mental and emotional energy you need to do your job effectively.

Why rumination affects Sensitive Strivers

Rumination to some extent is normal because we tend to believe that by ruminating, we’ll gain insight into a problem.

The problem arises, however, when it becomes an ingrained mental habit that begins to hold you (and possibly those around you) back from your full potential – as it was for Sarah in the story above.

Ruminating is also common in people who possess certain personality characteristics, like Sensitive Strivers.

As driven, deep thinkers, Sensitive Strivers pride themselves on being conscientious and thorough. When well balanced, their thoughtfulness can be a strength – contributing to above-average self-awareness and giving them superpowers like intuition and creativity.

However, when unbalanced, their Thoughtfulness can become a hindrance, which is exactly what was happening for Sarah.

Sensitive Strivers also tend to be perfectionists. So while they deliver high work quality, they are often extremely hard on themselves and their own worst critic, which leads to rumination.

If this sounds like you, then fear not, because it is entirely possible to rebalance your Thoughtfulness. With new tools to channel your sensitivity and ambition, you can stop second-guessing yourself and learn to regain your confidence and trust your judgment.

How to stop second-guessing yourself

Here’s a three-step process to end rumination that I coached Sarah through, which will also serve you.

1. Interrupt

At its core, rumination operates on negative self-talk. These unhelpful thoughts can sound like:

  • I’m such an idiot. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? A smart person would have.
  • This is all going to turn out to be a disaster.
  • I bet everyone is thinking I’m a failure.

Everyone’s inner critic is different, so your brand of negative self-talk sounds different. Regardless, your first step remains the same, and that is to interrupt the unhelpful thoughts.

This works because rumination is like an automatic, knee jerk reaction. It may be so automatic that you’re not even aware it happens. But interrupting the thoughts helps you build internal strength and command to be more in control of your experience.

You can interrupt your negative self-talk in a few ways, such as by silently saying STOP or “This isn’t helpful” or snapping a rubber band on your wrist. I also like to have my clients name their inner critic, so they can find emotional distance from their cruel inner voice when it arises.

2. Accept

Rumination and second-guessing yourself are characterized by wishing you or a situation were different or beating yourself up for all the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s that exist in decision-making. In both cases, you are wasting valuable time and energy fighting against reality.

A much more productive approach is radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is not the same as resignation or passivity. Rather it is about:

  • Taking ownership and responsibility for yourself within a situation.
  • Adjusting your perspective to willingly and realistically take in the facts, realizing you can’t change them even if you’d like to.
  • Assertively moving forward without staying stuck in thoughts like “why me,” “this is unfair,” or “it wasn’t meant to be this way.”

Embrace radical acceptance by rooting into the present instead of fighting it. Sarah did this by reminding herself “this is where I am now” or “I don’t like the situation we’re in, but I can’t change how it unfolded” after making decisions.

3. Redirect

After you’ve interrupted rumination and accepted reality, you can approach the final step in the process: redirecting your thinking.

By redirecting your thinking, I mean channeling your depth of thought and intelligence more constructively. Specially, you can do this through self-coaching – asking yourself open-ended, growth-oriented questions that open up new possibilities.

Self-coaching questions to stop second-guessing yourself include:

  • How can I make the most of the circumstances in front of me?
  • How might someone who is confident respond?
  • How would I advise my closest colleague to approach this?
  • What thought helps me feel energized and powerful?
  • What would I believe if I knew everything was going to work out?
  • What’s the very best next step I need to take?

Keep in mind that you can’t attempt this process once and expect rumination to magically dissolve. Changing any habit, especially a mental habit that’s as ingrained as second-guessing yourself, requires repetition and dedication.

But if you follow the steps above, soon you’ll experience greater success without so much stress.

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 ways to think like a successful entrepreneur

young creative entrepreneur making website selling online
Successful entrepreneurs recognize the uncertainty of the business is worth it once they’re able to provide value.

  • Successful entrepreneurs put value first, says entrepreneurship professor Per Bylund.
  • Successful entrepreneurs prioritize efforts that ensure they achieve their end value.
  • Consumers are interested in entrepreneurs whose products or services can add value to their lives.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Entrepreneurship is about treading new ground. It is about taking a step no one has taken before, at least not in that same way or in the same place. So it should not be surprising that much of the scholarly literature on entrepreneurship, since Richard Cantillon in the early 1700s, has focused on entrepreneurship as uncertainty bearing.

Although “bearing uncertainty” might be what entrepreneurs do in the economy from a theorist’s point of view, it is not – and should not be – the rationale for starting a business. After all, uncertainty means the outcome is unknown, which, in turn, means it could end up ugly. In other words, uncertainty is a cost – it is a burden on the entrepreneur’s shoulders. Entrepreneurs are right to attempt to avoid the uncertainty.

The fact is that theorists have it both right and wrong. Yes, entrepreneurs bear uncertainty because they are the ones getting the reward as profit and also the ones suffering the loss if things do not work out. But that uncertainty bearing characterizes entrepreneurship does not make it the point of being an entrepreneur. Rather, it is a “necessary evil.”

What successful entrepreneurs understand

Successful entrepreneurs, both in the past and present, understand the actual meaning of uncertainty. Those who already experienced success have often learned it the hard way, through experience. Those who are more likely than others to become successful have understood it in the abstract or have the right gut feeling. Regardless of which it is, past or present, they understand that uncertainty is “worth it.”

What this means is that they don’t focus on uncertainty, but accept it. Entrepreneurs choose to bear uncertainty much like someone putting in the hard work – perhaps 10,000 hours’ worth – knows that hard practice is the means to achieve success. How to endure those endless hours of seemingly never ending tedious work? Eyes on the prize.

Successful entrepreneurs recognize the prize and what it takes to get there. They realize that the only way their business can convince customers to buy from them and to beat the competition is to provide value. To the extent they are not simply lucky, successful entrepreneurs rely on a value-dominant logic: They place the end value of their efforts first and direct their efforts to maximize value.

There are three key components to the value-dominant logic that help you apply it in your business:

1. Value is the entrepreneur’s superpower

Entrepreneurs bear uncertainty because it is the only way of doing something different, something new, and bringing about value greater than everybody else has. After all, doing what someone else is already doing is not a way to set yourself apart. It is also not a way of being truly successful. To be successful, you need to develop your superpower – to figure out, focus on and deliver real value.

2. Value is subjective

It sounds strange, but it is true: Value is subjective. This does not mean value can be anything or that it is relative or that there is no such thing as real value. It just means that value is in the eyes of the beholder. The important lesson here is that you, the entrepreneur, do not determine what value is. Your job is to figure out how what you offer can be of value to others. That is what you should be focusing on, not on what you think would make your offering “better.”

3. The consumer is the ultimate valuer

Any entrepreneur, whether in B2C or B2B, should recognize that, ultimately, the consumer is king. Or, as scholars put it, the consumer is sovereign. If you are selling directly to consumers, it is obvious enough. You cannot place a sale unless consumers value your offering. But even in B2B, you cannot stay in business long unless what you contribute to the economy is of value to the final consumer. Even if your customers like what you are doing, you’re not going to sustain profitability unless the consumer of the final good likes it.

Another way of adopting the value-dominant logic is to adopt the “4 Vs” model developed by Hunter Hastings of the “Economics 4 Business” podcast. He summarizes these points for thinking like a successful entrepreneur using four value statements: value potential, understanding and assessing potential consumer subjective value; value facilitation, making it possible for them to consume; value capture, how much the firm realizes of the value facilitated by a value ecosystem that the customer orchestrates; and value agility, how well does the firm respond to changing consumer preferences and competitive propositions and how well does the firm sustain a continuous delivery of innovation to the consumer.

The point is not the terminology or model, but the lesson: that value should come first. And when you place value first and recognize that it is subjective and for the consumer, the burden of uncertainty becomes bearable. It is but a means for attaining the end. It is costly for sure, but it is a necessary cost in order to pioneer production and break new ground.

Importantly, the burden of uncertainty is justifiable because it makes it possible for you to bring about value. This point is key to being successful.

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4 techniques to control your emotions and remain calm during stressful moments at work

woman upset at work
If you find yourself getting upset at work, use grounding techniques to keep calm.

  • During high-stress situations at work, we often don’t have time to go for a run or write in a journal.
  • Career coach Melody Wilding says there are other techniques you can use instead to calm down in the moment.
  • Cooling down with a drink of water, clenching and relaxing your fists, and box breathing can help you relax.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Strong emotions are inevitable in today’s busy, stressful work world. And it can be difficult to control emotions – especially in tense situations at work.

Maybe you’ve been so frustrated with a colleague that you exploded with anger. Or perhaps you cried after getting feedback. If you’re anything like the high-achievers I coach, then you may wrangle with fear of not measuring up to the expectations you have of yourself. 

Complex feelings like disappointment, panic, or even shame are natural, but that doesn’t make them any less difficult to deal with. Without the right strategies for regulating your emotions, it’s easy to overreact.

However, many well-known strategies are unrealistic or impossible to do during the workday. Few people can go for a run or write in a journal during a heated meeting, for example. 

Here are four realistic alternative strategies you can use to control your emotions in the moment. Stay calm and composed and respond in a way you’ll feel good about. 

1. Cool down

When you experience an emotion, your body gears up to fight or flee. Your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive. Your heart rate speeds up and your internal temperature rises. It’s why your palms perspire when you’re nervous or your cheeks get flushed when you’re embarrassed. 

To push back the rising tide of emotion, you have to quell your internal, physiological response. One easy way to do this is to lower your body temperature. Grasp onto a cold glass, melt an ice cube in your mouth, take off a layer of clothing, or move closer to the air conditioner. Better yet, take a time out and head to the bathroom so you can splash water on your face. 

Scientifically speaking, this activates the mammalian diving reflex and kicks on your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxation. 

2. Ground yourself 

When overwhelming emotions strike, it’s tempting to lose yourself in a wild train of thought. You might recall every past instance of failure or worry about future outcomes. When this happens, you can use grounding techniques to reorient back to reality and keep yourself firmly rooted in the present. 

Simple grounding techniques you can use in the moment include to control emotions: 

  • Clenching and releasing your fist
  • Digging your heels into the floor
  • Relaxing your hips into the corners of your chair
  • Concentrate on the eye color of the person you’re speaking to

Pay attention to concrete, observable sensations and objects around you. This channels your attention toward what’s true and what you can control versus the chatter running through your head.

3. Breathe like a Navy SEAL

Navy SEALs know a thing or two about managing emotions under pressure. They use a particular form of regulated breathing to stay alert, focused, and calm. Box breathing, or four-square breathing, is a practice you can use discreetly at your desk or even in the middle of tense conversations. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Breathe in for four seconds.
  • Hold air in your lungs for four seconds.
  • Exhale for four seconds.
  • Hold your breath, lungs emptied, for four seconds.

You can find guided visualizations online to assist you in a box breathing practice if you’re just getting started. 

4. Buy yourself time before you respond

You’ve probably experienced regret after spewing words you didn’t mean. You want to avoid losing control in the future, but how? I tell my clients to buy time for themselves by asking questions. 

Start by empathizing and validating the other person’s view, then pose a question to get more information.

For example, you might say: “Great question. What’s your sense of the situation?” or “What I’m hearing is that you’re unhappy with the results. What else is factoring into your response?”

This gives you space to process your emotional reaction, use the tools above to calm down, control your emotions, and consider how you want to respond. 

Fighting your emotions doesn’t work. It will only leave you frustrated and unhappy. Instead, embrace your feelings and manage them appropriately using these simple strategies.

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