Conquering Keynote Speech Anxiety

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Do you believe in manifestation? I do. Last year, I remember distinctly saying, “I want to be a keynote speaker at the Women in Travel Summit next year.” Life works in mysterious ways. WITS is a HUGE annual event and the likelihood of me being selected as a keynote speaker is about the same as Jussie Smollett convincing America he’s telling the truth. As fate would have it however, WITS launched a series of regional versions of its main conference called WITSx—and guess who was selected as the keynote speaker for the Los Angeles summit? Ya girrrrrrl!!! Ayyyyy!!

Phew y’all. I don’t really get stage fright, but this was one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life. As the day drew closer and closer, the pressure to deliver something truly valuable and special kept mounting. Presentations and panels, I’ve done before. But a keynote speech? I don’t think the gravity of it really started to sink in until maybe two weeks before my speech. I hadn’t written a single line. I had no idea what I was going to say. What was I going to wear? Was there a keynote manual somewhere on the Internet I could follow?

5 SPEECH TIPS – HOW I CONQUERD MY SPEECH

TIP 1: MEMORIZE THE OUTLINE, NOT THE SPEECH (and solicit feedback!)

The truth is, I was totally overthinking all of this. About 4 days before the event, I sat down to frantically write my speech. And once I started writing, the words started flowing so naturally. This was my story. Nobody can tell it but me. So why was I making this harder than it was? I sent it off to my best friend to review and she gave me the exact feedback I needed to make it just right (THANK YOU JENNY!).

The next tough part was to practice. I wasn’t about to read a keynote speech. But I also didn’t want to sound like a robot and memorize everything line by line. I needed to commit the outline of my story and flow to memory, so I did—in between packing, flying, hanging out with my friends from out of town, and everything in between. Literally the only time I had to fully rehearse was at 5am the morning of the event. Talk about cutting it close!

TIP 2: LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD

I woke up around 4:30am, headed to the business center of my hotel and finally got through a full rehearsal of what I was going to say. Was I confident after I finished? Hell nah! I still wasn’t sure if I was ready, but time was up. I went back to my room, put on my Rent the Runway outfit and let my friends beat my face. Was I confident after that? Why yes actually. Never underestimate the power of a bomb outfit and a beat face. Crazy how just looking the part can make you feel like you can do anything.

My biggest tip for dressing the part—know your audience! My audience was a group of travelers, creatives, and aspiring remote workers. So it didn’t make sense for me to put on a stark, corporate power suit. Instead, I wore a chic form-fitting pencil skirt paired with a sleek black top and some heels to help with my posture. It was dressy but not stuffy and had a fun pop of color.

TIP 3: BRING YOUR CREW

Idk what I’d do without my friends. Seriously if you don’t have friends who would fly out to support you during one of the most intimidating moments of your life, no matter how big or small—you need new friends. 7 of my friends, one of whom I hadn’t even hung out with in months (maybe even a year?), flew out from Atlanta to Los Angeles without hesitation to hear my speech. Most of them came for one, maybe two days and went right back home. That’s love. Shout out to Sharina, Jasmine B, Jasmine M, Ashley, Nikki, Jannae, and Noellefor showing up and showing out (some of them have websites, so check them out if I linked to it). 

My sister Jasmine H (soooo many Jasmines in my life!) who is California based also showed up to cheer me on! She sat in the front row with an encouraging smile. Other LA friends and influencers in the travel space also showed up when I told them about the event and I am grateful to them as well! And then there was Karisma who encouraged me to even apply in the first place. Having a support system when you’re delivering a speech of any kind is indescribably priceless.

TIP 4: MENTALLY PREPARE FOR TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

Nothing can kill your speech flow more than things beyond your control going haywire. Throughout the day, I watched in horror while some people had to deliver their presentations as technology kept showing its ass. Major kudos to every presenter who pushed through it and prevailed. Thankfully one of my ATL girls was a PowerPoint mastermind. Before I went up to speak, she put on her tech hat and figured out what the problem was. Thank you Jasmine M! You CAME THROUGH.

TIP 5: BRING YOUR OWN TOOLS

Tip 4 and 5 go hand-in-hand. The reason why you want to bring you own tools is because of Tip 4. To combat technical difficulties.

It’s not enough to just show up and hope all goes well. NO. You need to be proactive and bring your own gear. Here’s what you’ll need:

• Backup Storage Device

Don’t make the mistake of sending your presentation and relying on someone else to have it for you. Bring a backup with you just in case. You can bring it on your own laptop, an external hard drive, a thumb drive, and also keep a copy on The Cloud—like Dropbox or Google Drive.

• A Presentation Remote

Think about any great keynote speaker you’ve seen. Most times they aren’t tied to a podium and microphone. They walk around and they try to engage the audience. A wireless Bluetooth presentation remote will help you do that. You have the option to carry a traditional Bluetooth remote or download an app that will allow you to control your presentation via your phone.

• Portable Speakers

Is video apart of your presentation? It was a small part of mine, and it was just my luck that the audio situation was not so great. Thankfully it was just one slide and it was just music – nothing major. But what if that music was integral to my speech? Bring your own portable Bluetooth speaker just in case. It could be a lifesaver.

EXCITED FOR WHAT’S NEXT

2019 has been incredible for my career so far and to kick it off with a keynote speech was big for me. Was I in a room with thousands? No. Doesn’t matter. No matter what size event, summit, or conference you get invited to keynote at—know that it’s an honor and that people are coming to hear you speak for a reason. It’s a huge deal and you should be proud! I know I was. Especially after it was over and I could breathe normally again. Needless to say, that milestone was a fabulous start to the new year and I’m so excited by everything that has happened since then and for what’s to come!

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