Public speaking doesn’t always refer to you giving a speech about the basic principles of marketing or advanced SEO strategies. At one point or another, you might have to give a more personal speech before a crowd that’s, in a way, closer to you. You might give a speech during your sister’s wedding, for example. Or a speech during your parents’ 30th wedding anniversary. Either way, on both occasions, you shedding tears is not at all a far-fetched idea.
Although it’s okay to cry when you need to, doing just that while you’re speaking in public may be a bad idea. When you’re overwhelmed with emotions, you can’t possibly get your message across. The result? Well, you fail to deliver the speech.
In other words, you need to know how to give a speech without getting emotional. How do you do that? Let’s look at some strategies in this article.
Public Speaking Without Getting Emotional: 8 Tips
1. Take Deep Breaths
The thing about being overwhelmed with emotions while you’re speaking is this: your body will sense those emotions and when it does, it will respond to it by either closing your throat up, making you tremble uncontrollably, or making you forget what you were about to say.
So, to avoid all those things and help you get through with your speech, you need to tell your body that there’s nothing to respond to in the first place. That you’re not feeling overwhelmed at all.
That’s where deep breaths can help you. When you take deep breaths, you don’t just remind yourself that you can do what you’re about to do. You also tell your body that you have the situation under control and that it doesn’t need to respond the way it usually does when it perceives a threat.
2. Crack a Joke
Sure, it can be difficult to crack a joke in emotionally-charged situations. That’s why you need to practice beforehand. Anticipate that you might get overwhelmed with emotions when you make your speech. So, before you go to war, practice cracking a joke many times just in case your emotions go haywire.
On D-day, once you start feeling those emotions, crack the joke before they overwhelm you. If your audience laughs, that’s a welcome distraction. If your audience doesn’t laugh, well, it’s still a welcome distraction for you. You veering off-script might just help you forget why you were getting emotional in the first place.
3. Take a Pause
When your emotions overwhelm you, it helps to take a pause and regain your composure. Sometimes, the emotions just start coming because your mind becomes flooded with memories about the people who are the subjects of your speech (sister, parents, etc..). If you take a pause, you can prevent those memories from overwhelming you. When you prevent your memories from overwhelming you, you prevent your emotions from overwhelming you, too.
During that pause, you can do other things to distract yourself. For example, ask for a glass of water if you don’t have one just yet. Or you can maybe comment about how the weather is nice. The key is to disrupt the flow of memories so you can prevent that overflow of emotions that can lead to that failure to deliver a speech.
4. Go Back to Your Notes
If you’re starting to feel emotional, take a look at your notes and read the first thing that you see. Do that even if what you’re about to say isn’t necessarily related to what you said before. When you do that, you can stop your emotions from overwhelming you. After all, you’re no longer focused on that one thing that makes you emotional in the first place.
You might argue, but what about the audience? True, your audience will hear something incomprehensible. They, however, won’t be as unforgiving as you think. If any, they’ll even commiserate with you and appreciate your authenticity. Once you’ve regained your composure, just apologize for the interruption and carry on.
5. Think Happy Thoughts
When you feel you’re getting overwhelmed with emotions, think happy thoughts. The happy thoughts, of course, shouldn’t have anything to do with your speech or the event. You can, for instance, think about how you plan to get a nice bath when you get home, or about how you plan to just watch that movie on Netflix after the speech. Your happy thoughts can be just about anything under the sun that makes you smile. I recommend thinking specifically about what you plan to do after the event.
The rationale here is simple. One, you disrupt the flow of emotions. Two, you get yourself a distraction from what’s making you emotional in the first place. Three, you give yourself that push to get the speech over with. Think happy thoughts and you can keep your emotions in check.
6. Increase Muscle Tension
If you feel like the tears are about to fall from your eyes while you’re making your speech, Professor Ad Vingerhoets at Tilburg University has a tip: increase your muscle tension. According to Vingerhoets, crying is a helpless reaction. So, when you increase the tension of your muscles, you convince yourself you’re in control of your body. When you manufacture that feeling of control, you can stop those tears from falling.
But how do you tense your muscles in the first place? Try clenching your fist, for example. Or you can bite your lip. Raising your eyebrows really high and looking up can be another strategy you can implement. Just make sure you don’t do these things for too long. You might end up hurting yourself if you do.
7. Choose a Point in the Room and Focus on It
True, when you’re making a public presentation, you always need to make eye contact with your audience. When you’re overwhelmed with emotions, though, and you do this, you might end up feeling like you want to cry even more. Just think about it. When you’re feeling emotional, members of your audience will more likely feel for you and that will only show on their faces. When someone is about to cry, seeing other people feel the same emotions as them will make them cry even more.
So, when you start feeling that lump in your throat, instead of looking at the audience, choose a point in the venue and focus on it. It can be the wall at the end of the room or the projector light, whatever works for you. You can take the opportunity to regain your composure while doing that.
8. Practice, Practice, Practice
We already know the saying: Practice makes perfect. Well, in this case, it might not lead to perfection (emotions are involved and those are something we can’t predict) but it can still help. So, make sure you don’t go to war without making the necessary preparations. Before you go to the venue, practice your speech in front of a mirror. Take note of how you respond when you say certain phrases and at the parts of your speech that make you want to cry.
Then, repeat the speech. This time, try to not be overwhelmed with emotions in those parts that overwhelmed you with emotions in your first practice session. Do this again and again. You need to repeat the speech many times so you can train yourself not to feel emotional in those emotionally-charged parts.
If you still can’t help but cry despite multiple practice sessions, consider rewording your speech so it doesn’t trigger too many emotions on your part. Change the emotionally-charged words into more neutral ones without necessarily changing the tone and message of your speech.
If you need to, hold a practice session not just in front of the mirror, but in front of real people so they can give you some tips about how you can respond when you’re saying something that makes you want to cry. They can even give you some tips about how you can reword your script in the first place.
Public Speaking Without Getting Emotional: Bottom Line
Public speaking can be an emotional event for you, the speaker. After all, you’re human and no human is devoid of emotions. If you speak about something that’s close to your heart, that’s bound to get some of your emotions riled up.
The good news is, you can keep those emotions in check, at least until you deliver your speech. You learned eight tips from this article. Take deep breaths, crack a joke, take a pause, and think happy thoughts. Increase your muscle tension, choose a point in your room and focus on it, and practice prior to your speech.
You don’t need to implement all these at once. Choose only the tips you think will work for you and execute. If a combination of tips works for you the first time, great! If they don’t, then try another combination the next time around.
Once you find the tips that work for you, you’ll see how easily you can get through speeches even when you’re overwhelmed with emotions. As for you letting it all out AFTER the speech? Well, that’s a different story.
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check out the article ‘Online Resources for Public Speaking‘. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.