3 Ways To Conquer Public Speaking Nerves
Do you find speaking in front of a group a nerve racking experience?
Does even the thought of standing up in front of a room of people send panic rushing through your body?
Being able to deliver a presentation or speak in front of a group (big or small) is one of the fastest ways to accelerate your career or grow your business, it allows you to communicate to the masses.
Imagine a networking event; you spend 2 hours frantically meeting as many people as possible, working hard to establish a connection, unless you know how to stand out and be someone who is memorable you will become part of a blended memory, you will be lost amongst the noise from the day. Alternatively you could look for the opportunity to present, to stand in front of the entire room and for 20, 30, 40 mins, using stories to engage and share your message. You create an experience and a moment that people will remember. Presenting to the room instantly elevates your position and status, you are automatically seen as the expert, you are seen as more trustworthy, after all, if you have been asked to speak surely you must know what you are talking about.
Maybe you want to stand in a meeting and put your opinion forward or deliver a presentation that will get you recognised and acknowledged. Your clients, colleagues and decision makers within the business will see you from a different perspective, when opportunities arise you will stand out from the sea of faces, you will be like a pink umbrella in a sea of yellow.
"you will be like a pink umbrella in a sea of yellow"
Okay, there are a few factors that need to be taken in to account, for example, public speaking is a skill, you need to know how to be an effective communicator and deliver your message, in the process showcasing your value. Then there is the whole nerves thing you have to battle against, but if becoming an effective public speaker will fast track your career or business growth don’t you think it is a skill worth investing in?
If you had asked me when I was 17 if I would stand on stage in front of 2000 people you would of got a very quick ‘NO’. At that time I was a shy, reserved and socially awkward apprentice carpenter, I only ever really came out of my shell and allowed my true colours to shine when in the company of close friends. Fast forward to today and I have performed over 850 live shows, been seen by over 5 million people on TV and performed as ‘The Mentalist’ in the worlds biggest touring magic show ‘The Illusionists’.
My journey to being comfortable in front of an audience has been far from easy, I have had night sweats in the days running up to a presentation, I have stood at the side of the stage minutes before going on trying to come up with an escape plan, I have had the internal voice questioning why I am doing this and telling me to quit, the key to overcoming this fear has been leaning towards the discomfort rather than hiding away.
"the key to overcoming this fear has been leaning towards the discomfort rather than hiding away"
Please listen closely.... I still get a ‘feeling’ before every presentation, I can feel the energy moving around my body, I can feel my heart start to race, however I have learnt to control this feeling and turn it in to a powerful ally that fuels me toward the stage rather than hold me back.
I have experienced the impact being comfortable public speaking has had in my life, both emotionally and financially. My mission is to help you and other professionals build their confidence and be able to communicate in a way that creates impact.
If you are someone who struggles with the pre-speaking jitters here are a few ideas that have helped me.
First up, accept that feeling nervous is totally normal, the only problem is that voice inside your head screaming ‘DANGER, DANGER’.
When I get ‘the feeling’ I now interpret this as a sign that something exciting is about to happen, I have in effect reprogrammed the way I react to this particular type of stress trigger (admittedly this comes with practise and familiarity, so don’t go expecting that straight after reading this you will instantly be able to reprogram your thoughts)
When the nerves kick in there will be a tendency to breathe in a very restricted/shallow way. This will cause you to feel more anxious and will lock the tension in to your body and brain, STOP and take a moment to breath deeply, focus on the breath as you breathe in, filling your body full of air from the belly up in to the chest, and then as you breathe out allow the body to relax, release any tension in the face and shoulders. This technique will actually work during your presentation as well, for example, if you are ever asked a question that catches you off guard, take a breath before you answer.
When we are fearful there is a tendency for our eyes to scan our environment, almost in a way of looking for danger or threats, this hyper awareness happens automatically for a lot of people, and like shallow breathing will send unhelpful signals to the brain making you feel more anxious/nervous.
Try looking at yourself in the mirror, and really focus on making an intense stare, notice the tension this causes around the eyes. Then allow your eyes to relax in to a soft gaze (hard to explain in writing, give it a go and you will get the idea)
Next time you are about to walk out in front of a group or approach someone at a networking event, become conscious and soften your gaze, not only will you look friendlier but you will feel less anxious.
Nail The Opening
Even now, when I am presenting new content or about to go LIVE on a video, I get a rush of energy flowing through my body (as you now know I channel this ‘feeling’ in a helpful way), my mind attempts to get in the way, trying to trip me up as I say the first few words, however, once I deliver that first sentence its like my body naturally relaxes in to the moment, I instantly start to feel comfortable, this happened back at the beginning of my speaking career and it still happens now.
I am not one for remembering a script word for word, I feel this leads to a lack of connection and impact (I will write more on my approach about this in another article). I do believe that when it comes to beating those initial nerves, putting thought, consideration and a plan, into the first words you are going to say is a powerful and essential exercise, it gives you that certainty in those first few moments.
What you say is a topic for another day, for the minute though practise the first few words you will say.
While I have shared 4 super powerful thoughts/tools with you, just these alone if practised will have a huge impact in your public speaking confidence, I do want to share a BIG NO NO.
Cards on the table here, I have made this mistake on more than one occasion, and it comes up frequently when I am coaching people, here it is....
‘Never tell the audience that you are nervous’
The second these words (or words to this effect) leave your mouth you are putting doubt in their mind, it totally changes the energy of the room, people want to hear certainty, the audience know that standing in front of a room of people is a nerve racking experience, you don’t need to tell them. Telling people you are nervous is your attempt to form an excuse, you are asking them to go easy on you and not take you seriously.
Let me end by asking you two questions (there will be a tendency to just read these without answering, I encourage you to pause for a moment after each question and think about your answer.... ideally write it down).
What opportunities are you missing because you back away from speaking up? What level of success are you not reaching because your fear of speaking is holding you back?
Imagine you used the tools I have shared here and 6 months down the track you are feeling more confident about speaking in public, your colleagues and clients start seeing you as an authority, an influencer a person of power. What would the impact be if you started to lean in to the nerves, become curious of the fear and start to understand it?
As I have already mentioned, becoming confident in myself as a speaker, being able to stand strong and certain in myself in front of an audience has had a profound impact in my life, not just from a professional angle but also on a personal level, my wish for you is that you take the leap and experience the magic that is waiting for you.
Anthony Laye - Take Action, Create Your Story.
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