Speak Up Dammit!

with Hope Timberlake


Hope Timberlake is a speaker, trainer and author who focuses on the communication side of leadership. Her new book, Speak Up, Dammit! How to Quiet Your Fears, Polish Your Presence, and Share Your Voice is a deep look into communication strategies that unlock the full potential of your presentations.

Tackling Your Nerves

Everybody, and I mean everybody, has dealt with nervousness when getting up to speak in front of a group of people. I speak in front of groups all the time and, believe it or not, I still get nervous before talks! From Hope’s experience working with clients, this nervousness and even imposter syndrome seem to be nearly universal. She shared some wonderful tips for calming your nerves in preparation to speak with courage.

Focus on your key points

It’s incredibly important to remind yourself of the two or three key points you want to get across before you get up to speak. Your goal should be to have a conversation with your audience with the very simple goal of communicating a few core ideas. When you focus on these key points it helps to keep you calm and oriented.

Make it Physical

Another strategy to help calm your nerves is to do something physical with your body to externalize what you’re experiencing. You can take a walk around the block, ground yourself, or use power poses to help bring your attention to the present moment.

Stay Curious and Reframe

When I’m feeling particularly nervous before a talk, I try to ask myself, “why am I feeling this way?” When you approach your nervousness with curiosity, it provides you with the opportunity to reframe your fear as caring deeply about connecting with your audience. That process of reframing can help you redirect your nervous energy to fuel a passionate presentation!

Connecting in a Virtual World

Now that we’ve had to transition to virtual meeting spaces, it can be hard, especially for emerging leaders, to know how to connect with people on a video call. One of the lovely tips Hope shared was simply turning off your camera’s “self-view” so that you aren’t tempted to focus on how you look or what your background looks like while trying to connect with others. Another great idea is to have thought through how you want to start the meeting, maybe incorporating some small talk with just one person on the call. This personal connection helps others on the call feel more at ease and can help you ease into your presentation with your virtual audience engaged.

Watch and Listen… To Yourself!

One of the best ways to evaluate yourself is to take the time to watch and listen to recordings of yourself in meetings or presentations. This is a great way to catch things that you may be doing unconsciously and make course corrections when needed. Pay attention to your body language and speech patterns and don’t let filler words muddle how your thoughts are conveyed. Don’t be afraid of pauses between and even within your thoughts. Giving yourself time to garner reactions from your audience and speaking with intentionality and clarity will give you a better presence in a meeting.

Don’t Succumb to Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a temptation for many of us and it can get in the way of actually accomplishing the things we set out to do. When we learn to enjoy the process, we’re free to pursue our goals with less fear and paralysis. So embrace the journey and Speak Up, Dammit!

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