6 Tips From Richard Branson on Overcoming Pre-Speech Jitters

6 Tips From Richard Branson on Overcoming Pre-Speech Jitters

Want to know a secret? Even billionaires get stage fright. Just ask Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur extraordinaire. Branson’s dislike of public speaking is a well-known fact–Virgin quotes him as saying, ”I loathe making speeches and always have. I deliver a lot of them these days, but it’s almost as true today as it was when I first spoke in public as a student some 50-odd years ago.”

So how does Branson conquer his pre-speech panic? Here are six tips from Old Beardie himself that might help calm your nerves before your next presentation:

1. Admit it, You’re Nervous

If you think you’re the only one who gets nervous giving public speeches, think again. According to Branson’s new book The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership, there are two kinds of people in this world–those who admit to getting nervous before a speech and liars. So don’t panic, you’re in good company.

2. Keep it Short

Don’t worry about waffling on forever. Not only will keeping your speech short help you calm your nerves, it will do wonders for your presentation as well. On Virgin’s website, Branson openly shares that his top tip for a great speech is to keep it brief–after all, if brevity is the soul of wit, a short speech is much more likely to keep your audience engaged.

3. Do a Mic Check

If you’re going to be relying on any technology to make your speech, give yourself some peace of mind and master it first. In The Virgin Way, Branson tells a story about the first time he used a teleprompter. Since he didn’t know the operator would adjust the script to his speed, he kept talking faster and faster, afraid he wasn’t going to be able to keep up with his cues. Don’t put yourself in that position! If you’re already nervous, relying on unfamiliar technology during your presentation will have you sweating bullets.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

In fact, if you can, ditch the teleprompter altogether. In Fortune, Branson mentioned his fondness for Winston Churchill: “Like Churchill, I found that if you practice, practice, practice, then practice some more, that will gradually mitigate the fear of public speaking.” No need to wing it. If you practice enough, no matter how nervous you are, the speech will go off without a hitch.

5. Imagine Yourself in a Comfortable Setting

If you’re uncomfortable speaking to your audience, another one of Branson’s favorite tips, which he shared with Business Insider, is to imagine you’re speaking to a different audience entirely. No matter how many people you’re speaking to, envision yourself in front of an audience with which you’d feel comfortable–imagine that you’re just “having a chat with someone in your living room,” as Branson puts it.

6. Speak From The Heart

The final step toward squashing your pre-speech panic? No matter what you’re talking about, make sure your speech comes from the heart. After all, you can memorize all you’d like, but unless you truly believe in what you’re saying, the speech will inevitably feel awkward and forced. Regardless of the subject matter, Richard Branson always manages to come across as sincere, allowing his jitters to fade away as his passion for the subject takes over.

(Image credit: Flicker)

Ken Sterling

Ken Sterling

Chief Marketing Officer at BigSpeak Speakers’ Bureau
Ken Sterling is the Executive Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at BigSpeak Speaker’s Bureau – a leading keynote and business speakers bureau. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California and a MBA from Babson College. Ken teaches Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Strategy at UC Santa Barbara. He is a serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker, business consultant and sales and marketing expert.
Ken Sterling
Ken Sterling