While watching singing competition shows, you can often see the contrast between great performers and mediocre ones.
You can almost see the mediocre performers thinking while they’re performing: I need to walk over there now; I need to smile into the camera now; now’s the part where I pick up the guitar; now’s the time when I high five members of the audience.
The great performers make all of those same moves—but you can’t see them thinking about them. The singers are so graceful—so “in the moment”—that each move feels natural, not overly choreographed.
That same dynamic also occurs on the golf course. One of our clients recently told me that when she approaches the tee, she wants to “whack the shit out of the ball.” But over time, she’s learned to loosen her grip and let her club do the work for her instead. Looser grips result in more accurate shots.
Those singing competitions and golf grips provide a critical lesson for public speakers.
Like the mediocre performer, you should think about everything you want to accomplish in advance: I want to show this visual, then summarize our project proposal, then open up a discussion, then close with a witticism I recently heard.
But unlike the mediocre performer, you should no longer be thinking so intently about what you have to do moment-by-moment once you’ve started speaking. If you are, the audience will probably see you thinking too hard—which will diminish the connection you’re supposed to be forging with them.
The best way to avoid that problem is to loosen your grip.
You’ve done your planning. Trust that all of the practice and preparation you put into your presentation will do the work for you. Trust that you’ve developed the muscle memory you’ll need to perform well.
Loosen your grip. When you hit the stage, focus less on the paint-by-numbers steps you need to follow, and focus more on developing a genuine connection (more about that here) with your audience.
Want to learn more about public speaking? Check out our recommended reading list!