Woman Walking

Strategies to Manage Speaker Nerves

Woman Walking Mark Twain once said, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” No matter how seasoned or under-seasoned you are as a speaker, when it comes to making presentations, Mr. Twain assures us nerves are just part our reality. Whether you are speaking to two people at a networking event, or two thousand as a keynote speaker, here are three strategies to help you get out of your head and on to the stage confident, poised and powerful. 1. Exercise…according to research from Dartmouth’s Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory, “the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms.” So rather than tweaking your script again, spend a half-hour going for a walk or doing some cardio and release some serotonin – also known as the happy hormones. 2. Give yourself a running start…memorize your first three lines. Many public speakers cite getting started as their biggest stumbling block. You can short circuit your monkey mind by committing your first three lines to memory and reprogram your jitters into excitement about participating in the day’s event. 3. Invite a dialogue instead of a monologue. Plan a presentation to engage with the audience on a particular topic rather than conducting a lecture where only the speaker’s opinion and contributions are relevant. Early in your talk, perhaps in the first minute, ask the audience a question that requires a response, or take an informal opinion poll and get some feedback. This type of audience engagement will allow them to better retain the information you share. It will also give you a chance to breathe, take a sip of water, and manage your stress level.

The Speakers “10 Minutes to Spotlight”

On your mark, get set…

timeforactionIf you are like me, and are working the room where you will be speaking up until the last minute, be sure to take a private moment before you go onstage. It is a critical step to take the time to center yourself and prepare for your presentation. Find a quiet room, if one isn’t available, go to the bathroom. Take a deep breath and let all your distractions and nerves flow out of you as you exhale. If you, like me, need to review your notes and remind yourself about your key points, this is the time to do so. If I get rattled onstage, it is almost always because I went out without taking the time to ground myself. To make sure you get your moment alone, set your phone alarm to vibrate about 10 minutes before the event starts and keep the phone in your pocket where you can feel it vibrate. If it’s not possible to carry your phone, the other option is to have an assistant or friend watching the clock for you. Ask her (or him) to tap you 10 minutes before the start time, to ensure you have time to wrap up a conversation and find that quiet spot. Be sure to pick out that quiet spot right after you arrive at the event. Want to know how you can relieve your speaking anxiety and get grounded? Here are some tips that I use and I share with the speakers I train:

8 Tips for Releasing Speaking Anxiety:

  • Deep breathRemember to Breathe: Anxiety tightens the muscles in the chest and throat. Deep breathing, on the other hand, sends oxygen to the lungs and brain and expands the throat and chest, promoting relaxation. Before going joining the audience, use the deep breathing and as you approach the platform, take a deep breath and relax. Also, remember to breathe through your nose – mouth breathing will strain the muscles in your chest and throat.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dry mouth is common when people are nervous. Trying to speak with “cotton mouth” can be painful for you and your audience. Take a quick sip before going onstage and keep water nearby during your speech, just in case. Taking a drink of water during your presentation can also provide a pensive pause if you happen to lose your place or need a moment to regain your composure.
  • Release Excess Nervous Energy: Light physical exercise, walking, jogging in place for a second, or do a few dance steps; these are all good ways to deal with the jitters. If you are really nervous just before presenting, flex your calves or ball up your fists. All these physical releases can help you refocus your energy and not fidget in front of your audience.
  • Focus on Gratitude: Make a quick mental gratitude list to keep you focused on the positive while you are doing the deep breathing and grounding before speaking.
  • Visualize Success: Focus on your success and the outcome. Remember, you care about what you are saying, you have put in the time and effort and you will be fabulous!
  • Goal 20Review Your Key Points: Review your key points and focus on the core goals and reasons for your speaking that day.
  • Love Your Listeners: Thinking of your audience as hostile or as the enemy is negative thinking and will put you on the defensive. Come from the place of thinking “my audience is friendly”. Believe they are there because they are interested in what you have to say. You get back what you put out – and this adage is very apparent in public speaking. If you want your audiences to love you, love them first!
  • Show Confidence: The audience will never know if you are nervous or not. Never start your speech by admitting to the audience you are nervous as this puts them in the position of “taking care of you” and takes away from your status as a professional and an expert in your field.

Remember that everyone has some level of anxiety before speaking; even the top professional speakers have some nerves but they have mastered how to overcome the nerves and use them. Use the tips above to help you to relieve the anxiety and to be the speaker you want to be. Looking to master your speaking anxiety? Contact me today! Happy Speaking – You are Fabulous!