Nixing Public Speaking Nerves

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Nixing Public Speaking Nerves

Public Speaking“I can hear my heart pounding in my ears, my mouth feels like it could dispense cotton balls at any moment, my hands get cold and clammy, and I’m dead certain everybody within ten feet can hear my knees knocking together.”

Sound familiar? If so, then you’ve probably done some public speaking at one time or another. And, much like the Accent On Business client quoted above, you may be overcome with a downright awful case of nerves when “taking the stage” in front of an audience. While it’s true that a little bit of nervousness can be good for helping you stay animated and energetic, too much of it could be a recipe for presentation disaster.

Fortunately, there are a number of time-tested and proven methods for handling your nerves, as opposed to allowing them to handle you. Consider the case of our client, whom we’ll call “Mr. Jitters.” When this gentleman came to the Accent On Business office for the first time, he immediately demonstrated a quick intellect and deep knowledge about his subject. However, his initial presentation was marred by starts and stops, fidgeting and even the occasional lost train of thought. During the evaluation portion of his session, he confessed that his nerves always seemed to get the best of him, despite knowing his subject matter inside and out. Further probing with “Mr. Jitters” revealed that he had so many fears and concerns over how his presentation would go and how the audience would receive him that he couldn’t focus on the presentation itself. Of course he couldn’t; he was too busy fixating on everything EXCEPT his speech.

For “Mr. Jitters,” there were a number of underlying issues that prevented him from being a top-notch public speaker, let alone finding enjoyment in the process. Some of the items on his long list of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors included:

  • Pleasing everybody, all the time.
  • Worrying about whether or not he looked like “so and so” on the stage
  • Being perfect – no mistakes…ever
  • Something bad will happen, i.e. “I might trip over the carpet, mispronounce a word, etc.”
  • Not being “liked” by the audience
  • Feeling unprepared

Sure, there are many other items you could add to such a list. But the bottom line is this: every fear or concern about public speaking is manageable, and most can be eliminated altogether. Most public speaking qualms are born of unrealistic performance expectations, anxiety over unknowns and anticipation of uncontrollable “what ifs”. The keys to presentation success are preparation, training, and practice, practice, practice!

It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of that latter success factor. To be the best public speaker you can be you must rehearse your presentation(s) on a regular basis. This applies to the seasoned pro as much as to the “newbie.” Some additional Accent On Business presentation “pearls of wisdom” include: videotaping yourself (yes, we know it can be painful, but it is also essential), knowing your room/space prior to your event date, using visualization techniques to calm yourself, being yourself vs. trying to emulate another speaker, becoming partners with humility and humor, developing passion for your subject, avoiding the awkward apology if you do misstep, and not trying to “control” your audience’s perception, participation or reaction (believe us, they’re just as fearful of public speaking and they DO want you to succeed).

Finally, we know firsthand that public speaking coaching with an objective expert works wonders in helping put one’s best foot forward onto that stage. Once we helped him craft the right messaging and stories to make the message stick, we followed our four-step recipe for speaking success. Mr. Jitters learned from us how to breathe properly in order to have oxygen in his bloodstream to calm his nerves, a 5-minute ritual of stress-reducing exercises which redirect the abundance of energy, how to create (and believe in) the right game-day message in his own head, and a strategic method for added power and confidence. With those four steps and terrific content, Mr. Jitters was well-prepared for his presentations. It worked for “Mr. Jitters,” who has become a frequent, enthusiastic and dynamic public speaker. Accent On Business coaching can work for you, too!

Remember, you don’t have to be perfect in your delivery, but you do need to be polished, professional, genuine and credible when it comes to public speaking. Get started today on reaching that place where peace of mind and presentation prowess meet. Contact us at info@accentonbusiness.net for more information about coaching sessions and classes.

About the Author:

Ellen Dunnigan founded Accent On Business in 2001 specializing in public speaking, communication skills, and executive presence for leaders in business. She has 25 years of experience with professional and nonprofessional speakers in healthcare, media, politics, engineering, sports, and other industries. Ellen’s coaching in speaking skills gives established and emerging leaders greater confidence and credibility. Her leadership programs in accountability, alignment, difficult conversations, and organizational communication have helped leaders expand their influence. Ellen is known for her practical “how to” style.
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