Friday, March 22, 2013
6 Tips to Calm Your Nerves Before Speaking
Linda needs to speak to the Board of Trustees -- she feels strongly about about the road they want to build through her neighborhood and wants to voice her opinion, but something is stopping her. She’s got speaker’s anxiety! Unfortunately, it’s very common. But when you care about an issue, you can’t let nervousness or anxiety stop you from getting involved.
If you’re on the PTA, you may be asked to talk about an upcoming fundraiser. At church, you may be asked to be part of the service or to teach a class. Although you may not consider yourself a public speaker, we all have times when we need to speak up and be heard in our communities.
Today, I’ll cover 6 tips to calm your nerves before speaking.
Tip #1: Stay Hydrated
Years ago, I went to small claims court with a friend. As soon as he started talking, his tongue went dry and his lips turned white. It was so uncomfortable to watch him struggle through his few sentences to the judge! Later on I learned that dry mouth, also known as cotton mouth, is a very real sign of anxiety and the person experiencing it is suffering. The secret? Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you speak. Keep your water bottle with you at all times. I find the more nervous I am, the more water I need.
Tip #2: Exercise to Stay Calm
If you know when you’ll be speaking publicly, plan a good workout earlier in the day. Even a quick stroll can really help. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, exercise can alleviate anxiety by releasing endorphins that make you feel better. Exercise also increases the body temperature, which can have a calming effect. It distracts you from your worries and helps you feel more confident. Even the social interaction of smiling at someone as you walk by or greeting someone in the gym can help calm anxiety.
Tip #3: Try Pictures, Visualization, Laughing Just Before You Speak
Sometimes we don’t realize we’re nervous until just before it’s our turn to speak. You may feel calm and prepared until just before your name is called. If you’re out of view, you can try methods such as looking at a baby photo, smiling big, telling yourself a joke or taking big deep breaths. If you’re in plain sight, use your brain to calm yourself. Try visualization or discreet, deep breathing. Keep a smile on your face and try to look relaxed.
If you’re going to use these methods, plan ahead. Create your visualization scenario before you need it. Picture yourself walking up to the podium, smiling, calmly giving your speech, and then visualize the result you want afterward, such as people coming up to volunteer or congratulate you on your passionate speech. Perhaps bring a list of jokes and a few pictures that make you smile with you.
Tip #4: Make a Change to Calm Down During the Speech
Have you ever had a case of nervousness hit you right in the middle of a speech or performance? Early on in my career I was in the middle of a presentation, and my leg started to shake. I’m not sure what it looked like to the audience, but to me it felt violent and uncontrollable. I had no idea what to do, so I suffered through it.
This would have been a good time to take a couple of quick deep breaths, to find a place to pause, and to make sure I was smiling. It’s better to take a quick second to regroup than to let the symptoms build. Breathe deep, change your position, focus on looking audience members in the eye, and if it seems appropriate make a small joke that lets you and the audience laugh and takes the focus off of you.
Tip #5: Embrace the Energy
Nervous energy isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, research has shown that good stress helps us focus and helps us think more clearly. Getting the blood pumping sharpens your senses sand makes you more aware of what’s going on around you. Use that extra energy to engage your audience, and to show your passion. Turn that negative energy into positive energy and your audience will sit up and pay attention. They’ll be more eager to interact with you. If you feel like you’ve got too much energy, some people like to purposefully on the stage. Just be careful not to pace back and forth like a caged tiger!
Tip #6: Be Prepared