4 things I learned from speaking in front of strangers.

Getting up to teach in front of new faces is always a bit nerve wrecking.  Even after you prep and practice, the thought of standing in front of a room with all eyes staring at you can be tough. I remember teaching my first yoga class. I spent days and nights putting together poses and its modifications, writing down endless amount of instructions, practiced with friends and mirrors and then finally the day arrived and I got in the room.

I sat down in front of a quaint and cozy room with about 10 eager students in front of me. I opened my mouth to speak; my words came out shaky and soft. I was moving my hands a lot and I felt all over the place. And that’s when I learned my first lesson…

1. Don’t judge yourself: I was up there judging myself instead of believing in my training and everything I learned. I was so hard on myself that I went blank in the middle of a sentence. As I was fumbling to find the right words, I paused. I took a long slow deep breath and told myself to relax. Once I hushed these thoughts I was able to focus better and truly deliver what I prepared. Not that I wasn’t nervous for the rest of the class, my voice was still a bit shaky but I was able to handle it better as I stopped allowing my own thoughts to distract me.

2. Distractions happen: This leads to my second point, distractions happen. There will be a cell phone going off, people coming in late, getting up to use the bathroom and many other things that are simply not in our control. Maybe the distractions are our own thoughts (in which case, we can control this by remaining calm). Overtime I’ve learned to stay alert yet focused. No matter where we are, whether it’s a conference call, a presentation, giving a speech at your best friends wedding or teaching a class, distractions are bound to happen and it’s completely ok to pause and regain your focus before continuing.

3. Be prepared, be natural: The best way to prep for any public speaking is to practice, in front of mirrors, with family and/or friends. The point of this practice is not to sound rehearsed, but to be yourself. Being the natural you will allow you to feel relaxed as well as put your audience at ease. Take time to be creative, add some sense of humor, use your hands if that feels natural, walk around and mainly put effort into creating a meaningful experience to your audience. The more natural you are, the more your expertise will shine through. 🙂

4. It’s ok to not know everything:  We are all humans, mistakes happen and we don’t need to know the answer to every single question or comment. It’s ok to admit when we’re unsure. That doesn’t mean we lack professionalism, it simply makes us human. Teaching my first few classes, I used to get confused between my rights and lefts while trying to mirror the students. It took practice before I got it right. This actually made me a better teacher and it taught me that these mistakes happen and to learn from these rather than become critical.

“A speech is poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep!  A speech reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”  ~Peggy Noonan

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