Cope With Nerves
How often have you listened to or watched a speaker who really messed up? Chances are, the answer is “not very often.”
When we have to speak in front of others, we can envision terrible things happening. We imagine forgetting every point we want to make, passing out from our nervousness, or doing so horribly that we’ll lose our job. But those things almost never come to pass! We build them up in our minds and end up more nervous than we need to be.
Many people cite speaking to an audience as their biggest fear, and a fear of failure is often at the root of this. Public speaking can lead your “fight or flight” response to kick in: adrenaline courses through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases, you sweat, and your breath becomes fast and shallow.
Although these symptoms can be annoying or even debilitating, the Inverted-U Model shows that a certain amount of pressure enhances performance. By changing your mindset, you can use nervous energy to your advantage.
First, make an effort to stop thinking about yourself, your nervousness, and your fear. Instead, focus on your audience: what you’re saying is “about them.” Remember that you’re trying to help or educate them in some way, and your message is more important than your fear. Concentrate on the audience’s wants and needs, instead of your own.
If time allows, use deep breathing exercises to slow your heart rate and give your body the oxygen it needs to perform. This is especially important right before you speak. Take deep breaths from your belly, hold each one for several seconds, and let it out slowly.
Crowds are more intimidating than individuals, so think of your speech as a conversation that you’re having with one person. Although your audience may be 100 people, focus on one friendly face at a time, and talk to that person as if he or she is the only one in the room.