Tips for Nervous Speakers

Tips for Nervous Speakers

Anticipating your next presentation or interview can lead to panic. How do you calm those nerves? How do you overcome the sweaty palms, the dry mouth, the trembling hands? How do you stand up and present  with the same confidence that you have when speaking to a single person? How familiar is this scenario to you? This is a commons experience, as a result I often get asked for tips for nervous speakers.

I have worked with many clients who are nervous speakers. At the extreme end of the scale, this kind of nervousness would be paralysing – some people turn down promotions due to their extreme nerves.  Irrespective of the degree to which you get nervous, having some techniques to help you manage those nerves is mandatory. You may manage well one day and then fall apart another time due to the fact that someone you find intimidating is in the audience. Let me share with you the tips for nervous speakers that I find the most powerful:

Rehearse the Positive Outcome, NOT your Anxiety

I find that many nervous speakers spend more time rehearsing their anxiety than they do rehearsing their presentation. Please note that I specifically mention rehearsing your presentation. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can ‘wing it’. True masters of speaking always rehearse their presentations. Rehearsal will set you apart from others. Rehearsal allows you to be so comfortable with your content that you can focus on the audience.

You can rehearse the positive outcome by visualising yourself delivering your presentation confidently. Imagine how you will feel speaking in an assured manner. You are friendly and relaxed and as a result, your presentation goes off well. Your knowledge of the subject is sound and you have approached your subject from the point of view of the audience. Visualise your audience nodding and expressing their approval for your idea. Imagine questions being asked that you answer in a positive way. Your presentation goes so well, it enhances your reputation. Imagine your audience applauding and congratulating you on your presentation. Do this visualisation multiple times in the days and weeks leading up to your presentation. It will allow you to associate a calm, confident demeanour with your presentation – a wonderful contrast to being a nervous speaker.

Take a Moment to Breathe 

As a nervous speaker, you probably forget to breathe deeply. Take a few deep, slow breaths just before you start speaking. This will help you calm down. Make a conscious effort to take a deep breath in-between points in your speech. I often script a PAUSE and BREATHE prompt to myself. When you pause and breathe, you allow your audience time to digest what you have just said. The result is that you come across as being more confident – you are not racing through your presentation.

Identify what went Well

Nervous speakers often focus on the few, small elements that went wrong. In the process, you completely ignore the parts that went well. Just as I suggested you rehearse the positive outcome rather than your anxiety before your presentation, the same holds true after your presentation. Identify those parts of your presentation that went well. Make a note of them so that you can repeat them in future presentations. Take a moment to identify what did not go so well. Calm your nerves by making a plan to make sure you don’t repeat the same mistake again. Get help from a speech coach or a colleague. Problems don’t simply vanish if you ignore them. By taking positive action, you are making progress.

These tips for nervous speakers work – use them regularly and you will be surprised how much progress you will make in a short time.