It’s true. When I get in front of a crowd of people, I get the palm sweats. And forehead sweats. Probably armpits sweats too, but I’m too busy trying not to upchuck the dirty chai tea rolling in my tummy, that I could be wrong. I can hear my heartbeat magnified by 3 million in my ears, and I’m sure the microphone or the person in the front row can hear it. It feels like my mouth is attached to marionette strings. Yet I do it anyway.
- Because my poetry sounds better out loud than just in your head.
- I hate the stage, but I like the applause.
- I’m not Catholic, but I feel the need for a confessional.
- I can’t let something like a stage conquer me. I conquer the stage dammit.
Did I mention that I’m stubborn?
Despite having performed poetry in front of crowds many times, and having done PowerPoint after PowerPoint, I still have the fears. So, I thought, maybe I need some advice for execution. So, I can focus on something other than my nerves in preparation.
I was browsing through the Poetry and Writers web site, and stumbled upon the National Recitation Contest Poetry Outloud. This contest was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. It is for high school students from grade 9-12th, whose schools are registered with their state coordinator. (FYI, there’s a coordinator in every state.) The students have to pick a poem that speaks to them and recite it in front of a panel of judges. There’s state and national competitions.
The bit on the site that I found the most interesting were the Tips on Reciting. I picked the seven that I found the most helpful and adapted them to general public speaking.
- Present yourself well and be attentive. Use good posture. Look confident.
- Nervous gestures, poor eye contact with the audience, and lack of poise or confidence will detract from your performance.
- Project to the audience. Capture everyone’s attention, including the people in the back row. However, don’t mistake yelling for good projection.
- Proceed at a fitting and natural pace. Avoid nervously rushing through the poem. Do not speak so slowly that the language sounds unnatural or awkward.
- With rhymed poems, be careful not to recite in a sing-song way.
- Make sure you know how to pronounce every word in your poem. Articulate.
- Make sure each poem you choose is one that speaks to you.
Hope these help you out. I’m sure I’ll be using them as I get ready to perform in front of another audience. The next First Thursday spoken word event at the Fresh Cafe here on O’ahu is Sept. 6th. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Have you had any terrifying speaking in front of people experiences? Share in the comments!