Getting up in front of a group of people is nerve wracking, but it’s one of the best hurdles that I have ever learned to jump.
In fifth grade my amazing teacher, Micheal King, at Star Hill Elementary School required us to stand up in front of our class, put on a little microphone, and talk. I can remember it vividly because he created a classroom built on respect and trust. His expectation that every student would attempt presenting with a microphone became the norm, and slowly we each became more comfortable doing so.
Mr. King also believed that all his students were writers, and that each of us had important stories to tell. During our writing time he often played an instrumental version of “Chariots of Fire” and would circulate encouraging us as we wrote. It was in that classroom that I knew that writing held great power, and began to write a little bit each day.
To this day, when I get up to speak I hear those encouraging words of my fifth grade teacher because he was the first person outside of my family that saw me for my strengths. He encouraged me to own my story, to stand up tall, to speak my truth, and to face my fears head on. It is teachers like Mr. King who inspire children to wake up eager to go to school, and who have a lifelong positive ripple effect on their students’ lives.
Now, several decades later, I get to stand up front of my community college students. I share my impact story of Michael King, and I to set the expectation of all of my students to share their voice throughout the semester. I cultivate in my students both written and verbal skills, and much to their chagrin, I require at least one in class presentation.
On presentation day I ask, by show of hands. ‘how many of you would rather be somewhere else doing nearly anything else?’ To date the data indicates that the vast majority are not eager for public speaking, but afterwards nearly all agree that it was worth the effort invested.
To help my students feel prepared I offer several ‘warm up exercises’ to lighten the mood and create a sense of camaraderie before they present.
Often I lead in with a worst case scenario presentation. I use our rubric and do everything in the lowest point category, and I ham it up and let my goofy theatrics take center stage. Within the confines of the safety of classroom, with the friendships that developed over the course of the semester, and with the door shut…. I know that leading in with how disastrous it could look will bring a smile to even the most nervous student.
So here are some tools to build your confidence for a class presentation, job interview, or conversation with a difficult co-worker….
Written Affirmation – on an index card write or draw yourself a message to keep near you either in your pocket or on the podium. I often pick an inspiring quote and doodle something that reminds me of my happy place…among trees!
Strike a “Power Pose” – Watch this three minute condensed talk by Amy Cuddy who studied non-verbal expressions of power and dominance. Her research finds that we can become more confident by changing our posture. “Power Poses” help us to create a presence that we are confident, passionate, enthusiastic, captivating, comfortable, and authentic. Try it out…and then I encourage you to practice your power poses for two minutes for the next week and see if it helps build your confidence! (If this short clip resonates looks for the full version as well!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7dWsJ-mEyI
Listen to the Prince – You want to be more confident? Watch this 4 minute clip for some practical tips! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJgqqtbhAHk
“Dragon’s Breath” – Another confidence builder is learning how to cultivate your breath. World class athletes, yoga gurus, motivational speakers, power lifters, and preschool teachers can all harness their inner power and find their calm by bringing their attention to the breath. Breath is a tool to calm ourselves! My favorite breath before presenting is to breathe in through my nose, and out of my mouth. Check out this link for free printable breath cards to teach to children! https://childhood101.com/fun-breathing-exercises-for-kids/
Talk with others who you admire ~ how do they find their confidence? For me, before I stand in front of a group of people I hear Chariots of Fire, I think of Mr. King’s encouraging words, and I speak from my heart. The impact of teachers is lifelong, and we pay it forward by empowering each other!
“You either walk into your story and own your truth, or live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness.” ~ Brene Brown