I have been a public speaker since the age of, I believe it was 9 or 10 years old, when I had to give 5-minute Bible-based "talks" or skits with a pre-selected partner in front of the church congregation.
Whoever's turn it was to give their talk was given a specific section of Bible verses and a theme to turn into a timely script for the congregation to hear. Yikes, I remember I had to write out the entire script like a screenplay, create note cards for the other person, and for myself.
On top of all that, we had specific public speaking points to work on, such as "proper emphasis", "diction," "logical reasoning," and so on. On the day of our public talk, we were graded by the church elders (sitting in the front row) on how well we did.
This is probably how I learned to be a people pleaser and a scriptwriter at an early age! I hated getting a bad "grade" on my talks, so I studied how everybody else did theirs and emulated those who always got high marks. It was like doing a term paper and then having to reenact every scene on stage in front of at least a hundred other people, some of whom you strongly disliked.
My advice on public speaking is to shut out the audience altogether until it is time to look someone in the eyes for emphasis and to make a personal connection. Being genuine and coming from the heart is the KEY to great public speaking.
When I turn my mic on, even though I am not able to look someone in the eyes, I feel as if I am looking at them through the radio. I try to do my morning show as if I was sitting in the back seat cracking jokes and shooting the sh*t with my listener, as opposed to talking into the great blue yonder.
When I start to feel nervous or like I am so excited that I want to hurl, I have developed a mental switch that turns that nervousness off. I rarely get nervous before public speaking events. In fact, the only time I remember being nervous in the past ten years is when I had to give a speech in front of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders for MLK day. I hadn't been in front of an audience of middle schoolers since the 80s! I almost puked in the gym, I was so nervous. I think that's just bad memories of being the "middle school dweeb". HA!
My advice to the nervous peeps is to just keep going. One day, it will just click for you but you have to practice, practice, practice, and listen/watch the greats. Humans learn by watching others and practicing a craft. I wish it were any easier than that, but it ain't. (Ain't is now a real word in the dictionary. So is 'finna'. I'm finna grab a drink, be right back.)
One speech that particularly resonated with me and keeps me going during my darkest days and nights is from a commencement speech that Shonda Rhimes gave to the Dartmouth College Class of 2014. Shonda is my GO-TO for any type of boost of inspiration.
She gave those university graduates her answer to people who look at her and say, "Oh, she has it all!" She says that yes, being "organized and having a lot of help" does lend itself to becoming a success in one's chosen field, but Shonda warns "having it all" is a myth.
Shonda Rhimes freely admits that she, in fact, DOESN'T have it all. There are always delicate sacrifices she has to make to reach the kind of success she aims for.
"That is the trade-off...the bargain one makes with the Devil. Something is always lost, something is always missing. And yet, I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland. It is a LAND, and it is named after their mother."