My friend cried on the phone with me as he rehearsed his remarks that he was going to deliver at his father’s funeral later that week. His heart was broken and his words stumbled and eeked out from behind a growing lump in his throat. His pain was so palpable, I wanted to reach through the phone to wipe away the tears welling up in his eyes.
“How am I going to do this,” he asked. “I don’t want to turn into a blubbering mess up there, Andrea. But, I owe at least this much to my father.”
“Don’t go up there alone,” I replied. “When you’re up at that podium, Mike*, you bring the love, energy and courage of everyone you love and respect, and you envision that they are right next to you, behind you and sitting in front of you. Bring all your voices of strength into that moment. You’re never alone when you do this.”
This one piece of guidance relieved my friend in such a big way. He was able to visualize that he was supported and loved…so much so, that he later told me it was one of the keys to him being able to share his thoughts without breaking down.
Here are two other ways I helped him prepare for that big moment:
Breathe – I asked him to breathe the morning of, the moment before, during and after his remarks. It may sound trite, but mindful breathing allows us to inhale the good energy we need and exhale the stressful energy that we don’t need. In breathing, we slow down our racing heartbeat, relieve tension that we are holding in our bodies (throat, lungs, shoulders, hands and stomach) and give ourselves some “headspace” to think clearly.
Invite the audience to support you – When we arrive at the point of our remarks or story where we feel an emotional surge coming on, it’s important to invite our audience to join us. We can simply say, “Bear with me, all…this is really hard for me to say.” We can pause and then make eye contact with our audience again. We can even ask our audience to join us in some way through our toughest moment. Your audience may stand, clap or support you by simply saying out loud, “It’s okay.” This audience action and feedback is a true gift, and it will encourage you to say the truest and bravest thing you can say.
It’s not just in sad moments when we experience a surge of emotion…sometimes we’re so happy to share something with an audience, that we trip over ourselves in excitement and we have a hard time keeping it in. Whatever emotion might have you stuck when you get in front of an audience, try one or all of these ideas to help get you through it.