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One of my first years showing sheep at the county fair.

It feels like butterflies are dancing in my stomach.  I feel like my body is shaking uncontrollably.  Then, I take a deep breath, I think of what I’m about to say, trying not to forget a single word.  I have a rope in one hand, and a sheep in another.  It’s go time.  I stand in front of a crowd of people, a judge sitting to my left.  My mom gives me a nod and I begin my first demonstration on how to make a sheep halter.

I was 6 years old when I gave my first speech.  Public speaking can be very scary.  It was for me that day. But I needed to take that first step, and I’m so happy my parents encouraged me to take 4-H and give that presentation.

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Helping a Clover Kid with his presentation at the Buffalo County Fair.

Now, 25 years later… I was a part of 4-H again.  I helped Clover Kids give presentations on their projects at the Buffalo County Fair.  I was there to help these kids work through those nerves and talk in front of a crowd of people.  Every one of them walked up to me, saw the crowd and talked about their projects.  This is a HUGE first step to gaining confidence.  I was there to make sure the first time they get the courage to stand up and talk was a positive one.

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Showing sheep gave me confidence to stand in front of people and talk to a judge. That’s the same confidence it takes to talk on camera or give speeches.

This is 4-H at it’s finest…. a chance to  gain the courage to show a project and talk to a judge or in front of a crowd.  I was more into the livestock side of things, but no matter what project area you get involved in, that public appearance is an experience to last a lifetime.

Sometimes, the butterflies and shakes still sneak their way back in.  But I have found ways to not let them get the best of me.  Here are some of my tricks:

  1. *Deep breath.  Once I feel those butterflies… sometimes all it takes is a deep breath and I’m ready to go.
  2. *Find Your Happy Place.  If the deep breath isn’t enough.  Think of something that relaxes you.  Some studies show fish tanks in doctor offices help people relax.  So I visualize something that relaxes me.  Like a calm sunset overlooking a pasture.  One time, I carried a small charm my mom gave me. Find what motivates you and gives you strength, and make it work.
  3. *Be Creative.  Having props to back you up can help if you run into trouble.  Plus it engages an audience.  Share stories that are engaging, and stories you know.
  4. *Knowledge.  One time I was starting to get all caught up in how I wrote the speech, that I starting fumbling over the words.  I paused, and told myself, “Just tell them what you know and what you are passionate about.”  I relaxed, and it was one of the best speeches I ever gave.  As long as you know what you are talking about, and if you are passionate about it, that passion will help you move past the nerves and tell your story.
  5. *Outline- create “Speaking Points” -after I write a speech, I go over it several times.  Then I create an outline with cue-words that help me move from one point to another.  My knowledge of the topic should then take over once I see or think of that cue-word.
  6. *No Notes cards.  I used to use them, but I do better without them.  They may make you feel better… but once you memorize those cue-words and practice–you won’t need them.
  7. *Work Around Mistakes with Your Personality.  Mistakes happen, it’s how you handle them that matters.  You mess up a word, re-say it correctly, apologize then move on.  If you go blank, find something you remember and start there… you can always back track.  Whatever you do, don’t give up.  Take your mistake with a smile, and engage the crowd.

If you are passionate about something, maybe it’s something we can talk about on our show!  I’m always looking for topics to talk about and ways to share how to get through life’s challenges.  Let me know, and this can be your chance to let me help you get past your public speaking nerves on Good Morning Nebraska!

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