The fear of public speaking is so great that we fear it more than death. But for lawyers, it’s inescapable – in court, at bar and trade association events, in meetings, addressing clients, the list goes on. The good news is there are tried and true ways to help you prepare and lessen your anxiety. Here are three.
Practice in front of Rover and Sadie
“Addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and elevate mood — perfect for practicing your speech or team presentation.” So goes the New York Times article, How to Give a Better Speech: Talk to a Dog.
I’ve given this a try and it works. I think the primary benefit of this exercise is getting you to practice. There’s nothing that gives confidence like knowing the material well.
Also, this gives me a chance to post pictures from the past week of our office pets. Pets are natural mood enhancers. Just look at those pics above!
“It makes you smile looking out at the dogs,” a participant in the experiment noted. “It kind of gives you a chance to step back from your presentation, to step out of that track you get stuck in.”
Engage a virtual audience
The same New York Times article also recommends a free app from VirtualSpeech that provides a 360-degree virtual presentation room where you can upload your own PowerPoint, which appears on the virtual screen as you address the virtual crowd.
Or, you could ask your dad, sister, significant other, and colleague to join you on Google Hangouts and practice, practice, practice.
Jeena Cho, who writes thoughtfully about anxiety in the legal profession and wrote the book on mindfulness for lawyers, recommends meditation to deal with the stress of presenting.
Jeena shares her experience:
“Regular mindfulness practice helped me to recognize the many ways in which I was holding myself to unrealistic expectations. Once I started to shift the focus away from myself to deeply thinking about ways in which I can serve the audience by giving them something of value—new insight, information, knowledge or perhaps even a relatable story, it helped to ease the anxiety.”
And, in the process you boost overall wellness. Win-win.
To ease anxiety and improve as a presenter, it all boils down to practice. Practice in front of your pets. Practice in a virtual space. Practice meditating.