In this edition of our Let's Talk Business blog we hear from Chris Hanlon about how to handle being invited on stage at the last minute. Chris is a signature talk coach.

Have you ever had to get on stage to speak with no notice? It certainly gets the heart racing, but I want to share with you a simple technique that will calm your nerves (somewhat) and make you look poised and professional.

I was sitting in the audience supporting a friend at her graduation. The Dean of the school was on stage, and said, “in a moment we will hear from Paige on behalf of the graduating class, but before that…” Paige, sitting next to me, whipped around to face me with panic in her eyes. If she was a horse I would be afraid she’d be about to bolt. “What the hell!” she exclaimed, “I can’t do that”. I smiled and said, “I think you have to, they haven’t given you your diploma yet,” I winked.

She punched me on the arm. I probably deserved it. I got serious. “Look it is really easy. Just decide now on three points you want to make, say a few things on each, then wave and come back down”.

Paige decided on three things:

  1. Thank the faculty  
  2. Thank the class  
  3. Express excitement about entering the Film & Television Industry

She didn’t need to write it down.

Paige got up on stage when invited.

“First I would like to thank the faculty, your knowledge and support made all the difference over the last few years. I remember {insert time one of the tutors went above and beyond}.

“Secondly I would like to thank my fellow graduates. It felt strange coming back as an adult student a few years older than most of you, but you made me feel welcome. We need to keep in touch.

“Finally I want to say how excited I am to be going ahead to do something I thought would only be a dream, to work in an industry that always captured my imagination.

“Thanks everyone!”

Paige was pleased that it was simple, because she had something to focus on. And she was also pleased how many people came up and commented on her poise on stage.

Now the lesson here is this:

First, Don’t Panic!

Second, decide on three things you are going to cover. Three is an easy number to keep track of, you probably won’t need to write it down.

Just focus on the three points you want to make, and say what you feel about it in the moment.

To the audience, three points is probably all they can handle, so it seems like a lot. And if you deliver it calmly (or excitedly) with a smile, they will just take you for a consummate professional.

Several times I have been asked to stage, and on the way up I am thinking: “Crap! What are my three things”.

It always works out...well sometimes it does depend on the amount of alcohol consumption, but that is another story for another time.