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Three ways to control your nerves when public speaking

“There are two types of speakers: those who are nervous and those who are liars” - Mark

Twain



Picture the scene, you’ve been asked to give a presentation at work – your reaction? Sheer panic! You want to run for the hills. You can already foresee how your body will physically react when the moment arrives…racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, quivering voice. The truth is, all of us have some nerves when presenting or speaking in public and actually, you SHOULD have some nerves. Here are some of the reasons why:


  • When harnessed, nerves can provide us with energy which can make our delivery more dynamic and ensure momentum

  • Nerves are a positive reminder to ourselves that we care about what we’re speaking about. When we lose interest about what we’re saying, we can become less nervous, simply because we don’t care anymore – not what any speaker wants

  • Finally, nerves can show us that we’re not in our comfort zone and we’re stretching ourselves – imperative for personal & professional growth

But how do we harness our nerves, use them for good and come across as calm, confident and in control of our words? Here are my tips to try out and see which of them work for you.


THE POWER OF BREATH!

It’s a tool we all have access to, but don’t use it enough when it comes to settling nerves before an important moment. |I’m talking about effective breathing. You may find that when nerves strike your breathing becomes much more rapid and shallow. Or perhaps you feel ‘butterflies’ in your tummy. Taking controlled, deeper breaths really helps to reduce these symptoms. I always compare the impact of deep breathing on nerves, to turning off and on your computer when it starts to play up. 9 times out of 10, that’s all it needed! Breathing is like our natural restart button. It resets our parasympathetic nervous system, lowering our cortisol levels (stress hormone), so we’re starting from a place of less panic, and more calm. This way we can think more clearly, be more in control of our words, delivery and even our body becomes more relaxed and less tense.


ACTION TO TAKE: When you feel the nerves rise up, breathe in for 4 seconds, and out for 4 seconds. Repeat three times. This will help to cull those last minute jitters.


NOTICE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING TO YOURSELF

Yes, it’s important to consider what content you’ll be saying to your audience when you speak, but what are you saying to yourself about your ability? If you stop for a second and just notice the inner chatter you’re having, the chances are you aren’t saying things like, ‘I’ll do a great job giving this presentation’, ‘I’ve got this’, or ‘I’m excited about giving this speech’. What you’re more than likely doing is reinforcing the narrative that you’re nervous and unlikely to be very good. Nerves can very quickly spiral out of control when all you do is talk about them in the days or weeks prior to the event itself. Words are powerful! As such, the more you talk about your nerves, the more your body reacts, and the more your body reacts, the more you run the risk of talking about them. You can work yourself up into a frenzy simply by what you say. This cycle is only broken when you choose to watch what you say or if needed don’t say anything about your nerves at all.


ACTION TO TAKE: You may feel nervous but rather than constantly repeating “I'm so nervous, I hate my nerves” simply reminding yourself with phrases such as “I may feel nervous but I know they will help me” or “I may feel nervous but it means I am excited about sharing it with the audience” can really help. Watching what you say about your nerves can have a profound impact on your ability to manage and channel them and yet is simple and practical.


PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

If you’re serious about controlling your nerves and not letting them control you, the absolute best way is to practice, practice, practice! Waiting until you ‘have to’ speak in front of an audience is too late. However, if you invest time and energy in practicing this will help you identify what helps you manage your nerves most effectively and the techniques can be applied when it matters the most.


ACTION TO TAKE: Practicing by yourself is the first step, even filming yourself to see how your audience see you is a great idea. Another idea is setting out seats in front of you and putting teddies, dolls or even pillows as stand in people., It's a way to feel ‘safe’ when rehearsing. The next challenge is to do it front of real people. Select a few trusted people – family, friends, close colleagues to rehearse in front of. Alternatively, working one-to-one with a communication coach is a great way for you to speak in front of another person, for them to help you with practical communication & delivery techniques and give you feedback as well as support, to ensure you deliver the most confident presentation you can.


If you’re interested in finding out how I can help you with presentation skills, public speaking or general confidence in finding your voice at work, then get in touch to book a complimentary 30 minute initial chat.



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