How to manage your nerves when asked to speak in public
Does the idea of public speaking freak you out?
Are you a nervous speaker?
Do you get anxious or self-conscious every time you are asked to speak in public? Is this situation hurting you personally and professionally? Well, you are not alone.
Speech anxiety or fear of public speaking is, unfortunately, one of the most common problems that most individuals face. Those facing this challenge often find themselves struggling to express and share their views.
Sweaty palms, dry throat, knotted stomach – fear of speaking is real. However, you’ll be surprised to know how easy it is to calm your nerves and conquer the fear of speaking.
To keep it simple, we have divided the tips into three phases. So let’s get started:
The Preparatory Phase
You still have a few days left to give that presentation of yours or to deliver that speech. Here are few points that you need to keep in mind while prepping yourself for the main event.
1) Accept the fear
The first thing to do is to quit fighting fear. As weird as it may sound, it is true. Accept that you are anxious and jittery about speaking in public. And then work towards tackling it.
Know that it is okay to feel a little nervous before going up on stage or before giving that presentation. The trick is to harness this nervous energy that’s bolstered inside. Because, that’s exactly what it is, “energy”. Your job is to transform it into something that will help you push yourself harder and be more awesome.
2) Pick a subject that you are passionate about
If given a choice, always choose a subject that is dear to your heart. Something that would have had a strong impact on you.
When we speak about matters that we genuinely care about, we tend to be more comfortable and confident. If you don’t have a choice, try to find your passion in it or find a part of it that really motivates you.
3) Enroll in public speaking classes
Most good speakers never reach the top of their game because they miss out on getting the right kind of guidance.
Make a decision now and get yourself a mentor. Someone who can chisel your strengths and help you overcome your drawbacks. Get advice, seek feedback, get a different perspective. These are powerful tools you can use to become great.
4) Write the content yourself
Make this a habit.
Whether it is a presentation or a board meeting or a speaking commitment, make sure that you research and write your material yourself. Avoid winging it!
Once you are done with preparing the material, make it a point to go through it thoroughly. This will instantly put you at ease and you are less likely to get anxious while presenting or delivering the material. Also, you’ll be able to handle questions and queries better.
5) Practice maketh perfect
If you really want to be your best on the stage you gotta practice and rehearse numerous times.
Try to practice your speech in front of a mirror and/or friends or family. I know. It feels awkward. That doesn’t matter one bit. You’ll become better and better just doing this.
6) Record and hear yourself
As said previously, another great way to improve your style of speaking is to record yourself while delivering the speech or presentation.
Concentrate on your tone, diction, pronunciation and voice modulation. Evaluate the areas where you’d need improvement and work on it. Ask feedback from others, so that includes your coach or family members.
Meditation is a great way to clear your mind and to calm your nerves.
It helps you stay centered, collected and sane. It is also one of the most effective ways to eradicate negative thoughts and emotions. So, make it a point to meditate for at least 5 minutes, every day.
The Delivery Phase
D Day has arrived and you’re all set to deliver your speech or presentation. However, you feel yourself breaking into a cold sweat and getting all jittery.
What do you do?
Try the following:
1) Arrive slightly before time
Always make it a point to arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time. This will give you ample amount of time to settle down.
Walk around the venue a little and get comfortable with the place. Get a feel of the stage or the room you’ll be delivering your talk or presentation in. Check the lighting, the microphone that you’d be using etc.
2) Expect a positive outcome
This is important. Always expect a positive outcome of your speech or presentation.
Visualize yourself walking toward the stage, confident and self-assured. See yourself performing with utmost conviction and clarity. Positive thoughts have incredible power. They can make you feel calm and collected in an instant.
3) Follow the Mantra
Breathe deep, breathe easy. There are very few troubles in life that deep breathing, a big bar of chocolate or a tall glass of wine can’t solve. Amiright?!?
When you focus on your breath, your mind tends to relax. It improves clarity and makes you feel less restless and nervous.
4) Keep sipping warm water
Another thing that you can try doing to calm your nerves would be to sip on warm water. Avoid sugary or alcoholic beverages as they may tend to make your mouth feel dry and parched.
5) Focus on your material
It’s true – standing in a room full of people can be quite intimidating.
However, you mustn’t forget that you have been preparing for this day for a long time. Focus on your material and when you look at your audience don’t focus too much on their expressions or reactions.
6) Set a pace for your talk
When we get nervous we tend to speak extremely fast.
When you talk fast, you tend to breathe shallow which will then lead to you panicking and fumbling. Let’s avoid all that! Set a pace that you are most comfortable in and stick to it throughout your speech or presentation.
7) Smile as often as you can
A pleasant and warm demeanor always has a positive effect on the audience. Make it a point to smile and maintain a friendly composure.
Smiling also conveys to your audience that you are confident and are absolutely sure about the content.
The Conclusion Phase
Most speakers find themselves still stressing over their speech much after the event is over. That really isn’t a good thing.
Yes, you want to learn, but what happened, happened.
Did something wrong? Do it better next time.
1) Don’t over think it
It’s easy for us to focus on the mistakes we made or what we wish we had done different. Even pro ball players can fumble, there is no point of beating oneself up over it.
All you can do is learn from past experiences and move on. So, pick two learnings you’ll improve next time and be done thinking about it.
2) Don’t take the reactions of the audience to heart
It takes all types to make the world go round, so even if your message went straight to the heart of some there may always be others who were disengaged.
Remember that that not everyone in the audience will be interested in what you have to say. Accept it. And, certainly don’t let the reactions of a few people bog you down.
3) Celebrate your successes!
Take the time to identify a few things that went well.
Did you feel more calm than usual? Was your speech timing more even than last time? Did you remember not to fidget with your hands? Like any skill, we get better in layers and over time.
Celebrate the steps you took forward this time!
Eliminating a fear of public speaking takes some time, but by focusing on the right things and building some good habits you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll improve.
Also published on Medium.