Many people find public speaking difficult, even terrifying, and given the choice, would rather not have to talk, but unfortunately (or perhaps more accurately fortunately!) we sometimes need to do something, even though it terrifies us! Typically people feel nervous when faced with a speaking situation. While we may experience nervousness differently in our body, it’s something that we can all relate to. a feeling which we can all relate to. Symptoms of nerves when we’re about to speak include sweaty palms, racing heart beat, tight chest, dry mouth and/or nausea. So how do you cope with these anxious feelings when you’re feeling nervous about speaking? Advice people hear, be it from others or within their own heads is to “(Just) calm down.” I don’t agree! Watch my video to find out more!
I’ve three problems with the advice, “Calm down”:
1) It doesn’t work: If you’ve ever tried to think yourself into a calm state by saying ‘calm down’, then let me know! Frequently people tell me that they try to tell themselves to calm down, but that they still struggle with presenting, and/or their voice shakes.
2) You’re seeing nerves as a problem: Feeling nervous is energy flowing through our body from adrenaline. Adrenaline energises us and gets us ready for action. We want this energy so that we can speak with passion and enthusiasm.
3) You’re fighting against your body. Our bodies have such wisdom, and ultimately if we fight against our body we lose. Instead, listening to the internal signals that we’re getting and accepting them can empower us to move forward, rather than be stuck in a state of fear and dread.
So, the solution is to embrace these nerves as energy that’s in your body and let it flow. Sounds great in theory, but how do we do this? In my workshops I share different ways in which you can learn to do this. One simple technique is to re-frame it from nervous…to excited. This technique was researched by Alison Wood Brooks (2014) who found that people who said to themselves, “I’m excited” before carrying out one of three tasks- karaoke singing, public speaking and Maths, performed better than those who said, ‘I’m nervous’ or who said nothing at all. She called this ‘reappraising anxiety as excitement’. So, the next time you need to give a presentation, focus on feeling excited, and let me know how you get on!