How to feel comfortable during your speeches: 3 travel tips

I never thought I’d spend a significant amount of time as a public speaker. Like many kids who grew up in the ’80s, my “career” started through a simple desire to make money — delivering papers, shoveling snow, selling magazines, etc. I’ve been selling either physical goods or my own services for most of my life, and looking back, all of these in-person activities prepared me to speak in public as part of my job. In my experience, after over 250 speeches in the past five years, I realized there’s one major factor for effective and consistent performance.

So, what’s the biggest consideration you and I both need to keep in mind?

Feeling comfortable during your speeches. Why is that so important? Unexpected stuff happens. You get a handheld microphone instead of a lapel mic. Or no mic at all. Your clicker runs out of batteries. You start early or start late. Or your presentation time is cut by a fourth because things are running behind. Or elongated by one and a half times because another speaker didn't make it.

How do I know these things? Because all of them have actually happened to me during my speaking gigs. As I write this, during my last gig, the batteries on the microphone ran out. If that happened to you, what would you do? Wait around until the problem gets fixed?

Here’s a simple solution: Have a backup plan for situations like this where you can get the crowd involved. Have everyone stand up and take a stretch. Or in this case, I asked the person with the loudest voice if he or she could come up and speak on my behalf. In this situation with the dead mic, it actually turned into a pretty funny situation. We acted it out as a sort of performance: I spoke in her ear and she tried to actually do the hand gestures I was describing — a brief game of charades. Three minutes later we were back to normal and back to the presentation.

As a public speaker, not only are you expected to deal with the unexpected during your presentation, but you are often required to travel. Travel can be stressful but there are simple ways to mitigate potential issues.

Here are my top three tips for traveling before your big day. They can all help contribute to that most important factor — you feeling good about what you're presenting.

1. Pack the night before. By packing the night before your trip, you set yourself up for success and reduce unwanted stress. If less time is spent worrying about whether you packed your toothbrush or not, there’s more time to focus on your upcoming gig. Have your speaking points already prepared, your presentation slides in multiple locations (e.g., on your computer and on a USB drive), and a list of names of key contacts printed on a physical piece of paper in case any travel plans go awry. By doing this, you’ll help ensure you have a positive and clear mindset before stepping onto stage.

2. Hydrate before you speak. I recommend twice the amount of water you'd normally drink, and also ensure you have a bottle or glass from which to drink during your presentation. Nerves will dry your mouth and you’ll start to “pop” on the mic if you’re not well hydrated.

3. Always, always take almonds or any other simple snack en route to the speaking gig. Hunger is an enemy to a good performance. Don’t eat on stage, mind you, but ensure your stomach doesn’t grumble — because it will if you don’t eat enough.

So, pack your snacks! Healthy snacks help to ensure that blood sugar levels won’t drop during your performance. Low blood sugar can cause confusion, lack of focus, and can physically cause you pain. Often, nerves will take over and you won’t be as hungry as you normally are during your regular morning routines. Be sure to recognize and address this problem and stop it before it begins to hinder your speaking ability.

How do you prepare when you have a big day ahead? What suggestions would you add to this list?

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