Last week, I delivered four different talks, all of which were the full monty – large audiences, microphones, PowerPoint decks, four different topics. It was daunting, but not because of nervousness or fear of forgetting my content. It was daunting because of all the multitasking involved with, and required of, being a good speaker.
There are multitudes of public speaking worries that are talked about, yet for some reason multitasking is one that gets woefully overlooked. For me, and for many, the multitasking involved in being an effective – let alone, dynamic and compelling – public speaker might well be the most taxing aspect of going to the front of the room.
Here’s a random sampling of what multitasking looks like for me:
Do I look okay?
Am I smiling and appearing welcoming?
Is the sound working?
Am I projecting well enough?
Is the technology working?
Was I compelling in my first 8 seconds?
Am I connecting with this group?
Am I transitioning well from slide to slide, section to section so that it makes sense to them?
Am I moving around the floor too much/too little?
Is my speaking pace okay?
Am I providing enough time for them to digest the material?
Am I looking around the room at as many faces, or segments of the room, as possible?
Should I engage them now, should I maybe break for a midpoint Q&A?
Are they with me, do they get it?
How’s my energy, voice and body?
Am I sensing that the next section of my content won’t really interest them, should I skip it?
Are my glances at the screen subtle and few?
Am I hitting all the points I planned to make and, wait, do I remember what comes next?
Can you relate to some, or maybe all, of these? Are you with me, do you get it? I’m guessing the answers are yes and yes. Is it overwhelming and sometimes literally daunting? Yes and yes.
There’s no single cure or technique for conquering or mastering multitasking, but here are 3 basic tactics that can provide some relief:
1. Know your content. Be fluent with the flow, especially with the actual statements (i.e. the sentences) that are your major message points. Pay attention to and prepare your transitions and pauses.
2. Plan not only your content, but your choreography too – you, your visuals, your body language and gestures, your movement around the stage or room. Know, and then rehearse, your choreography with your content.
3. Let her rip! At a certain point, you need to let go of all your multitasking worries and just be present with your audience. Release yourself to them, talk to them, be with them and trust that you’re prepared and the rest will come.
It all boils down to this: good preparation. And then, even with good preparation under your belt, when it’s show time, you need to let go and be with your audience.
Good luck out there, and let me know how it’s going!