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How To Follow a Legend?

Having to give any kind of speech in front of other people can be a very stressful task. It can be any speech from a big presentation that has to end up in getting a sale, through talking to your boss about your raise, all the way to giving a presentation of your idea or work in front of a team. But what happens when a person or persons coming before you are either really famous or just knock it out of the park? How can you handle that in terms of your stress and your preparation?

This is a situation that can happen to anyone and it can cause nervousness to any of us. It just recently happened to me even though I have been giving speeches for more than twenty years.
I have been invited to speak in an organization and everyone in the organization received an e-mail that said: “Our meeting this month is in person and our focus is going to be on the Rapport Advantage: Dynamically transforming the way you communicate with Alex Swire-Clark. We had an outstanding speaker in general Colin Powell, chairman retired last month, and our presenter this month will deliver!

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Colin Powell? What?!
Thinking that I will be speaking to a group who just heard general Powell speak while having all the respect in the world for him, is really a hard act to follow.
How to do this?

I see this as an opportunity to build upon what’s happened rather than go into panic mode. I see this as an opportunity to have fun with it and embrace it and live up to that challenge. Of course, I will be nervous, I am nervous every time I go in front of an audience but it is because I want to deliver good content to them and make sure that the audience is getting value from my time with them.
What can you do before you get on the stage, what do you do in those moments before?

  1. Breathe.
    Nice, big deep breaths before you get on that stage.
  2. Roleplay all the possible situations.
    Do you know your numbers inside and out? Do you know your speech inside and out? Can you ad-lib if necessary? Are you prepared for questions in the middle of your presentation, can you handle that? Roleplay those situations, spend a lot of time in the pre-work and that makes the actual on-stage time much simpler for you.
  3. Just go with it and BE YOU.
    From a DISC world, I am a High I so I have strong improvisational skills, I am not rigid so not a lot bothers me. I could roll with the flow since that’s the way I am wired. For someone else that might not be the case and maybe you will have to adapt a bit more. However, do not try to be like anybody else.
    Be you, use your voice. Do what you do in the way that you do it and that’s going to give you authenticity and you will not have so much pressure. If I tried to act like someone else does on the stage, I will not be genuine and on top of that I will have to remember content, mannerisms, techniques and I will enhance the chances of freezing up.

Remember, if you are delivering content, you have to be you through it. If you are delivering something that is data-driven, that doesn’t mean you can not liven it up, add your personality to it and appropriate humor.
Make sure you hit these three goals:

This will give you a sense of confidence and satisfaction that you know you’ll do a great job (of course, if you put in the time and the work before speaking).


Don’t worry, trust in your pre-work, be authentic to who you are and do your thing. Who speaks before you, in that case, shouldn’t matter. You got this!

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