3 Ways to Kick Public Speaking Nerves to the Curb
It doesn’t matter if you’re presenting to two people or to two thousand people, when presentation nerves strikes, you need some strategies to get you out of your own head and on to the stage with confidence, polish and professionalism.
Mark Twain once said, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” In other words, no matter how seasoned or “under-seasoned” you are when it comes to delivering a presentation, there is going to be a particular audience, topic, timing or something else that is going to give you some sleepless nights and a queasy stomach in the morning.
I don’t know about you, but the old adage “picture them in their underwear” doesn’t cut it for me. The first thing to do is to remember it is not about you. Nervous speakers are often caught up in their own head, being their own worst enemy and losing sight of the fact that they are simply a vehicle for the message they are gifting to the audience. When you remember you’re serving the audience and you’ve chosen to do so, you’ve earned the right to be on that stage.
Yvonne Adele, professional conference MC, speaker and Founder of Speaking School, finds that when she is coaching speakers, a combination of breathing, preparation and strategy is the perfect antidote to nerves. These techniques are further explained as follows.
1. Breathing techniques
- Totally under-rated, take a few deep breaths as you are waiting in the wings.
- A ritual of tribal, loud, open-mouthed screaming as you jump up and down in the bathroom before you go on stage. Sounds a bit Tony Robbins, but it certainly works for some.
- The Identify, Objectify and Banish technique where you take a moment to stop and identify the feeling you’re having (Identify it), then you bring it to life a bit (Objectify) by imagining it as an object. Finally you imagine the object disappearing (Banish). This works to bring you back to the present, and your breathing will automatically return to a calm pace.
2. Preparation, preparation, preparation
To be totally prepared:
- Research the client, their challenges and the challenges of the people in the audience. More often than not, asking the client to put you in touch with 3-5 people who are likely to be in the audience for your talk enables you to directly talk with them about their challenges.
- Research your topic as it relates to your audience. Look for great case studies, remarkable ideas and external factors to spark ideas.
- Arrive at your speaking engagement early and mingle with your audience. This will give you an insight to the sorts of conversations they are having with each other, and ask a few questions about their day to day challenges. Weave these into your speech where relevant.
3. Panels & Facilitated Interviews
If you’ve ticked all of the boxes above and you’re still unable to reduce your anxiety, ask the event organiser if you can be part of a panel or if the MC can interview you instead. You can provide the MC with 5-10 questions as a guide they can use to draw out all the insights you were planning to put into your presentation. This is the fail-safe way to get you up onto that stage.
What do you think?
Most of us can reduce our fear of public speaking and increase our confidence by avoiding a few poor habits, while incorporating some helpful tips. I’m interested to learn about your strategies for managing your nerves when it’s time for you to take the stage. Comment your views below and join the conversation.
This article was written by Jelena Milutinovic on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Fast Company; LinkedIn; Psychology Today and Yvonne Adele
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