One of the things that sometimes happens when public speaking, especially when sharing our stories and our journeys is that we can become very emotional. Now emotions, passion and feelings are important and help us engage and connect with the audience, but we don’t want to become too emotional and have to leave the stage or be incapable of finishing our presentation. Examples of potentially emotional public speaking include doing a eulogy, father of the bride speeches, wedding speeches and accepting an award for great service. I will share with you five tips that you can use to gain control if you find yourself becoming too emotional during your public speaking.
- Focus on those strong, supportive and friendly faces
There is nothing worse than sharing an emotional story and focusing on someone in the room who is now crying or sobbing uncontrollably. This will often trigger a greater emotional response in us as the speaker and may also tip us into uncontrolled crying. Look for those strong and supportive faces in the room and focus on them. When I delivered my father’s eulogy I made the mistake of looking at my two brothers. They were emotional and sobbing and that triggered the same response in me. So I looked at some of the stronger faces in the audience, not family, but those people who respected my father and wanted to show their support. I was immediately able to re-gather my composure and move on. Now it is normal to cry at funerals, but you can use this technique if you ever get too emotional when presenting a keynote or a seminar and you need to stay in control. Look for the strong supportive faces.
If you notice that emotions are welling up within you, one technique that works is to stop, pause, and do some deep breathing before moving on. This does not give you “time out”, but a chance to breathe, relax, oxygenate the brain and just gather your composure. We see athletes before competing, stop and take deep breaths. The pause can also make you look confident and in control, even if you are not. It also works for helping you to control emotions.
- Change your position on the stage
This technique requires that as you notice your emotions building, stop speaking and physically move to another position in the stage. This helps you to separate from the emotional state and gives you time to gather your composure and start over again, with a clean slate. So if you are standing in the centre of the room, pause and move to one side and then carry on with what you were saying with a fresh perspective and a fresh position on the stage.
- Focus on the core purpose of your presentation.
When you notice that emotions are increasing or getting a little out of control, take a moment to focus on your core purpose. Focus on “why am I having this conversation, why am I doing this public speaking”. Your core purpose will be about the audience and it will be for the audience. Your core purpose is not about you. So if you get too emotional or lose control, this will negatively impact on your ability to get your core message across. As the emotions get stronger than you want, go back to basics, go back to the reason and the very purpose that you are presenting, which will always be for your audience.
This tip is about knowing your stories and the impact that they will have on you. So those parts of your presentation where you might become overly emotional, you already know where they are. It is a bit like driving a car and seeing a sign post for a sharp bend or steep decline. You know that it is coming, and you can slow down, change gears and proceed with the appropriate caution. In your speech, know when the vulnerable points are coming and prepare and focus on staying in control. You can also change the story, or use a different story, so that you still deliver the same point, but you have less emotional risk.
When presenting and public speaking, your stories, your passion and your emotions are so important in your connection with the audience and your ability to have impact. Occasionally your emotions will well up too strong and leave you struggling and incapable of finishing your presentation. Use one of these 5 strategies to help you stay in control.
If you would like to learn to be more effective at public speaking and presentation skills, we are running an Effective Communication Skills in Darwin on 22 October. You might also want to check out our other upcoming workshops in Darwin – Assertive Communication Skills Workshop on 22 October, Difficult Conversations on 23 October and Thinking and Speaking Off the Cuff on 23 October.