I am often asked for tips on how to give a speech without crying. At first, I assumed these people were just nervous or perhaps suffering from stage fright. However, I soon learned that it’s sometimes simply an overwhelming emotional experience to give a speech. This may be at a wedding, a funeral, or during a graduation party for example. No matter the reason—professional or personal—I have many tips for teary-eyed speech givers.
So, how to give a speech without crying? Take deep, calming breaths. Add some humor, if appropriate. Take a moment to acknowledge the emotions involved. Don’t forget to pause for reflection and composure. Focus on the mundane.
I’ll get into the details a little bit later, but these were some quick tips for you to use. All of that is helpful advice, but if you know anything about me at all you know I’m thorough. Of course, I have so much more to tell you. Keep reading to find my best detailed tips on how to give a speech without crying.
How to Give a Speech Without Crying
Giving a speech isn’t always about sharing new ideas, selling your products and services, or getting ahead in business. Sometimes, we are called on to give speeches of an emotional nature. Even the toughest of us has suddenly been gripped by the lump in the throat and that urge to burst into tears.
And that’s totally okay. Sometimes, being overrun with emotions can work in your favor. Depending on the situation, you may be able to use the tears to your advantage. Other times, it’s best to keep your cheeks dry.
In either case, there are many things you can do to get through your speech without crying.
#1 Breathe Deep
When we are overcome with emotion or fear, your body will register stress. One of the first ways it does this is by restricting breathing and tightening your throat. You may even completely hold your breath.
Since you need oxygen in order to give your speech, any kind of restriction in breathing will really mess you up. That’s not even talking about the increased stress you’ll feel when you realize you’re about to pass out from lack of oxygen!
The easiest remedy for this problem is to simply take a long, slow, deep breath. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, taking slow and steady breaths when your emotions are taking over can seem like an impossible task.
This is where a little preparation can come in handy. If you know that you’ll be giving a potentially emotional speech, or that a speech you must give in a business setting may cause you to cry, it’s worth the effort to learn some simple breathing techniques beforehand.
Did you know that taking even one deep, calming breath maybe enough to counteract your adrenaline and your emotions? If you don’t have time for a full set of breathing exercises while your audience stares at you, just take one breath. It may be all you need.
#2 How to Give a Speech Without Crying Using Humor
“Funny people aren’t funny because funny things happen to us. We’re funny because we take the tragedy that happens to us, and turn it into comedy.” – Judy Carter
Unless your speech is happening at a solemn event, you may try adding a little humor to ease your nerves and calm your emotions. You might be surprised to learn that some somber events, such as funerals, are actually appropriate for gentle humor, too.
The key to making humor work to calm you during your speech, is understanding your audience. If these are friends and family and other loved ones, humor is almost always acceptable. In fact, your audience may welcome the release that laughter brings.
#3 Acknowledge Your Emotions
It may seem counterproductive, but acknowledging your emotions may prevent you from crying during your speech. The more you fight strong emotions, the harder it is to ignore them. So stop ignoring them.
But how do you acknowledge your emotions during a speech without breaking down into rivers of tears?
Encouraging self-talk is the best way to accomplish this. Mentally acknowledge that you are emotional. Tell yourself that it’s okay to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling. It might be fear, it might be sadness, it might be absolute excitement that is manifesting as tears. Whatever the feeling, tell yourself it’s okay to feel that.
After you’ve acknowledged your feelings, take that deep breath we mentioned in the first tip. It’s incredibly cathartic to mentally acknowledge emotional energy, then release it physically through a deep, controlled breath.
#4 Pause for Reflection and Composure
Some of the best speakers use natural pauses in their speeches to emphasize parts of what they’re saying. But they may also be using those pauses to compose themselves. This is especially common during emotional speeches such as during a wedding or while accepting an award.
You can find good places to pause your speech ahead of time. For example, while you’re writing your speech, you’ll probably feel some of those emotions creeping in. They’re giving you a preview of what your actual speech may be like.
Don’t force those feelings away. Use them to identify places where you should create a natural pause in your speech. Those pauses are where you should take your deep breath and acknowledge how you’re feeling.
#5 Focus on Your Notes
One of the best ways to avoid crying during your speech is to focus on your notes. A well-written speech with useful notes gives you a low-key item to concentrate on. When your emotions start to overwhelm you, simply glance down at your notes and pretend to read them for a second or two.
It may not be the most graceful method to calm your emotions, and it certainly isn’t surreptitious, but it’s also not unusual to have a speaker look at their notes. As long as you don’t stare at your notes the entire time, it’ll look perfectly natural to glance down and regain your composure once or twice.
#6 Focus on the Mundane
Maybe you don’t have notes, or maybe you’ve already looked at your notes too many times and your audience is getting suspicious. Whatever your reasons, you may need another option to stop your tears during your speech.
So, how to give a speech without crying if you can’t look at your notes? Change your focus.
Look out across the audience, avoiding any eye contact for now. Too much eye contact when your emotions are flaring may cause the dam to break and get the tears flowing. Instead, look out past the people. Find something in the back of the room that has no meaning to you.
Maybe it’s a poster on the wall or a stack of chairs. Maybe it’s the door out or a window overlooking the parking lot. Find anything in the back of the room that can help distract you from the overwhelming emotions tugging at your tear ducts.
#7 Take a Drink of Water
Have you ever seen those pitchers of water sitting next to a speech-giver? They’re not there for decoration. Professional speakers aren’t just really thirsty people either.
Water is usually provided for speakers for two reasons. The first is that speakers’ mouths often get dry. It’s simple biology.
The second is that taking a sip of water is a well-known way to relax your throat, give you a moment to compose yourself, and helps you focus on something other than your speech for a moment.
If you notice, taking a drink gives you the opportunity to use several of the tips already listed here. It’s an unobtrusive way to get through a speech without crying.
#8 Practice, Practice, Practice!
If you’re really panicking about becoming emotional and bursting into tears during your speech, plan ahead. Be prepared! You can breathe all you want, drink gallons of water, and stare at the windows, but if you don’t practice your speech ahead of time, you’re doing yourself a major disservice.
Practicing starts when you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). As mentioned earlier, writing your speech will be the first chance you get to see where your emotional triggers may happen. Pay attention to those.
As you write your speech, stop and practice it out loud. If you choke up in the same places each time, mark those spots and move on.
Once you finish your speech, practice in front of a mirror or better yet – in front of the camera. Practice looking up at yourself (or at camera) as you recite the speech. Glance at your notes often, paying attention to where you marked the emotional parts.
Take note of how you’re feeling as those places come up. If you feel the lump forming in your throat, try adding a pause before or just after that point. Practice taking a sip of water.
The more you practice and make it through your speech, the easier it will become. If you can condition yourself to avoid or work past those emotional spots alone, you have a better chance of making it through on the big day.
#9 Choose a Handheld Distraction
Another good trick to avoid crying during a speech is to bring a distraction with you. Something small that you can hold in your palm, keep on the lectern, or hide in your pocket can help you stay calm and collected.
When you feel the emotions begin to rise, simply palm your distraction item and give it a good squeeze. If you practice with this item while practicing your speech, you may be able to train your brain to recognize it as the “calm” object.
It’s a bit like Pavlov’s dog. If you can train your brain to associate the distraction item with calm or intense focus, you can derail your emotions before they ruin your speech.
If you don’t have a pocket to hold an item or you aren’t able to bring something small up with you, you can always use your own hands. Practice ahead of time doing a casual hand fold on the lectern. While your fingers are laced together, you can give them a gentle squeeze to help center yourself.
If there is no lectern, fold your hands in front of you.
#10 Rewording Your Speech
If you still find it difficult to get through the speech without crying, even after all of this advice, there’s still more you can do.
Try rewording the most intense parts of your speech. Subtlety has its place in speeches, just as clear and concise word choice does. It’s okay to allude to something emotional without coming right out and saying it.
Chances are good that your audience is also feeling emotional, and rewording more intense parts might be a kindness to them as well.
Bonus tip: Use Emotions to Empower Yourself
You came here wondering how to give a speech without crying, but you may be looking at this the wrong way. Let me explain.
In some situations, crying and other shows of emotion can actually work in your favor. Look at the emotional speeches you’ve seen in the past as examples.
When an actor cries at the podium after receiving an award, your first thought isn’t that this person is a weakling. More likely you understand that the tears show the world how grateful they are to be acknowledged.
What about graduation celebrations? Those are notoriously emotional. Look at the tears that stream down cheeks during graduation speeches. Clearly, the people speaking have poured heart and soul into these words. Does it dampen the mood or take away from the speech because they’re crying? No way!
If anything, tears during a speech show your audience that you are invested in this topic. You care. You connect with whatever it is that you’re talking about.
Tears don’t always show weakness. In some situations, they show in an obvious, nonverbal way that you care deeply enough to be moved to tears.
How to talk without getting emotional? Keep your speech simple, concise, and on point. Breathe deeply in and out. Pause for composure and to catch your breath.
How to keep from getting choked up? Depending on the situation, you may be able to bring humor into the moment. Laughter helps relieve stress. It may be appropriate to allow yourself to become choked up anyway.
How to write a speech? How to write a speech depends on many factors. For example, type of event (official or unofficial), listeners (acquaintances or strangers), time (short or long speech), etc. (read full article here)