It’s like the wind, knocked out of you.
Atrophy permeates your ever muscle, vision tunnels inward—especially under the spotlights. And speaking? Forget it! You’re too worried about breathing.
They say a fear public speaking is the most common phobia. But speaking isn’t so much the fear; failing to speak is. You forget your lines. Your hands shake noticeably. You look down… hey, you wore pants—that’s a plus.
Half-caugh heckles hit you from different angles, and if you saw a mushroom cloud in the distance it’d be, well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world—even if it’s the end of it.
Most of us don’t have to imagine this nightmare, most of us have felt such a debilitating fear before, even if we’ve managed to overcome it.
It’s completely natural to be nervous before you present, even after public speaking training. It’s nerves and it’s normal, even if it’s unwanted. But, in the days and hours before you present, you truly can prepare and control “the controllables” like shortened breath and shaking hands.
In fact, not only can personalized training help you overcome public speaking anxiety, you can even polish your panache and rehearse until you are so confident you adopt that brazen Broadway swagger that we admire in celebrities.
We call that the “It Factor.”
Je ne sais quoi. Sprezzatura. Star quality. The “It Factor.”
Call it what you will — in any language, there’s a certain indefinable quality of natural grace and power. We know it when we see it.
The Moxie Method of our public speaking training cultivates executive presence: the charisma that communicates your leadership. The “It Factor” pulls in all the elements of physical presence that you’ve learned so far — clear articulation, calmness of breath, command of space — and incorporates them into a complete package of persuasion.
Executive performance is developed by practicing, pushing past limits, and performing.
1. Practice makes Presence
“Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident.”
The process of memorization can seem monotonous, but it’s the most natural technique to choose when you have plenty of time to practice. This way, you become intimately familiar with your talk until it is second nature.
You’re even minimizing your body’s fight-or-flight response by knowing what comes next.
TED talkers and keynote speakers know the importance of connecting with an audience. You don’t see them constantly referring to notes, PowerPoint slides, or note cards because it breaks the eye contact necessary to build trust. Without trust, there’s no connection. Without connection, the audience isn’t receiving your message.
Winston Churchill liked to say he put in an hour of practice for every minute of his speech. You may call that excessive. We call that “in the ballpark.”
Clients in our public speaking training do best when they start rehearsing six weeks out from their speech. Play around by varying pauses, tones, and emphasis. Memorize the words: work them into your bones.
When you practice, do what actors do: layer your practice.
How to layer your practice
- Learn the words of your speech like the names of your family—backward and forward.
- Focus on how you’re delivering the words: where to pause, where to speed up or slow down.
- Practice body language, interacting with your slides and commanding the space.
- When you’re ready, put it all together. Record yourself practicing, take notes immediately after your dry run, and then review the video to see what else needs work. Ask for the help of friends, colleagues, pros like Moxie’s speaker coaches, or consider enrolling in a public speaking training.
We have also witnessed that clients benefit greatly from spaced repetition: spreading out work on these layers to reinforce them at regular intervals. First, focus on one layer, then move on to the next, but keep circling back occasionally to make sure it’s locked in.
It’s impossible to master everything at once; so just take it one layer at a time.
This can beg the question, “Why don’t I just wing it?”
Our short answer is, “no.” Our long answer is, “For the love of all that is good, please no.”
We’ve witnessed too many speeches careen unsalvagably off topic, winding through strange emotional sharings, and finally crash into what we call “Uncanny Valley,” when the speaker suddenly loses all traces of personality and stares at a strange space in the back of the room. At that’s when it goes well.
Even the great wordsmith Mark Twain has famously commented,
“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
Rehearsing is what makes you stand apart from all the other presentations and rewards you with the “It Factor.”
A speech can seem casual and off the cuff… with good preparation.
“Winging it” never works, no matter how much public speaking training you have under your belt.
The more you practice, the easier it will get and the more confidence you will have. The more confidence you have, the closer you get to the star power of the “It Factor.”
You’ll know you’ve practiced enough when your speech sounds authentic without reading verbatim. This will help you to truly be present as you present.
Though you will probably be tempted to load every brilliant word into a teleprompter or typed into a word document, using simple phrases as cues will keep you from seeming robotic and stiff.
Discipline in rehearsal, for actors and public speakers, is essential for a quality production. This gives you the opportunity to safely make mistakes and correct them before your audience and critics do.
By the time you present, it isn’t the first time you’ve given the talk—it’s the 5th or 6th time (or more!)
And don’t forget to become familiar with the space and the technology you will be using.
2. Push Past Comfort
Anders Ericsson invented the field of expertise studies. You’ve likely heard of the “10,000 hours to expertise” rule from Malcolm Gladwell. He actually took (and somewhat distorted) that figure from Ericsson.
Here’s how Ericsson sums up his research: expertise comes from consistently pushing past what you thought was possible.
This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice:
“If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve. Get outside your comfort zone but do it in a focused way, with clear goals, a plan for reaching those goals, and a way to monitor your progress.”
Goals + planning + work + expert feedback = success.
That equation matches the success we see at Moxie: every day we watch deliberate practice and feedback transforming talkers into world class presenters.
3. Perform with Panache
Elite athletes like Cam Newton are different when they’re competing from when they’re walking around the grocery store. Yet none of us would say their athletic performance is a fraud. Why? We understand that different moments draw on different parts of ourselves. Some moments are casual, some professional, some call for an endzone dance.
Executive presence defines the performance of an elite speaker. They walk a little differently, speak more clearly, use words a bit more carefully than they do in everyday life. (In fact, elite speakers share many techniques with pro athletes: warming up, welcoming feedback, practicing focus, developing stamina, and exercising daily visualizations.)
They’re the Cam Newtons, Dwayne Wades, Michael Phelps of presenters because they know how to pull together the elements of their speaker’s persona and — as our President, Gregg, likes to put it — lead from the stage.
Executive presence requires a seamless self-presentation, from your clothes to your hygiene to your body language to your voice. Your words should shine as brightly as your shoes.
By presence, here, we don’t mean great classical oration. (Save that for your first inaugural address!) Instead, frame your speaking persona around telling a captivating, authentic story. Think campfires, not Congress.
Steve Jobs reshaped the executive keynote with one technique: with every presentation, he told a story about how Apple’s new product would transform human interaction with technology. It wasn’t about tech specs or market share — it was about revolution. All the weeks of practice and careful slide designs were directed to tell as story that moved us.
As we teach in our public speaking training, presenters who tell stories draw from the depths of human experience. To captivate your audience, perform for them — use everything you’ve got to connect. That’s what the “It Factor” is all about.
Stage actors master audience-centric performance early on. It’s just not enough to inhabit a character on the stage and express the emotions of this imagined person. Acting requires paying constant attention to the audience while embodying a practiced persona: where to stand, how to work the lighting, how to project your voice. How to portray emotion with enough of a push to hit the back of the house.
As it turns out, public speaking is no different.
It requires a performance from the speaker and a performance that’s attentive to the needs of those listening.
There’s just one problem.
The actual humans sitting in those seats are complex! The audience wants you to move them, but they also don’t want to be moved. They want you to be attentive, but their own attention is all over the place.
And that’s why you need to command the space with that je ne sais quois, your It Factor. Use your verve and moxie to mesmerize them.
And don’t forget—always leave them wanting more.
Public Speaking Training 101 IT Factor Action Items
Avoid the PowerPoint Trap
Memorize this maxim: bullets kill presentations.
PowerPoint is an amazingly useful tool, but like any tool, it has its limits. Use visual aids only when needed, and keep them simple. Avoid blocks of text, avoid reading from a screen.
Remember: Slides are just slides, you are the presentation. And whatever you do, don’t turn your back on the audience to read from the screen! (We have an exercise to avoid this – after visiting our previous blog, scroll down to the “Touch, Turn, and Talk Method.”)
Lock it In
Use the “memory palace” technique to remember the broad points of your presentation. To master the individual lines, read your speech over and over. Then work your way backward through each page: memorize the last line, then the second to last line, and so on up the page. Read forward, memorize backward.
Be Your Own Director
Add stage directions into the text of your speech. Underline words where you’d like emphasis, add a pause where it’s needed, etc. Memorizing these is just as important as memorizing the words themselves. What does this look like? Just write or call us and we’ll happily provide an example, totally free.
Love it? Want more rehearsal tips and a printable rehearsal checklist? Download our IT Factor Rehearsal Tips and Tricks.
Still writing your speech? Check out, Public Speaking Training 101: Content and Preparation Before Your Speech.
For more on harnessing the power of your voice, try Public Speaking Training 101: Mastering Your Voice, Your Guide to Vocal Perfection.
Want ALL the info immediately? The ideas shared in this article are an excerpt from our Speak with Moxie e-book. To get the full action-packed book immediately at your fingertips, you can find it here.