These top 5 techniques will help you to manage your public speaking anxiety and nerves. Public speaking is humankind’s greatest fear. You can learn how to manage it.
Over my 23-year career as a presentation skills coach, I have read and researched almost every kind of cure or suggestion about how to deal with public speaking fears and nerves. These proposed solutions usually present fragments of the truth. They usually don’t tend to look at this massive fear holistically. The reason for this is that many proponents of these solutions only hold a fairly limited knowledge in quite disperse areas of expertise.
The fact of the matter is that no one strategy is completely right or better in any way. Our fears are completely personal and subjective, and largely dependent on our deep personality wiring. The intensity of our personality type usually creates the intensity of the fear experienced.
My 23 years of teaching people to present on a daily basis have taught me that introverts tend to fear public speaking far more than their extroverted peers. This stands to reason. Extroverts draw energy, pleasure and satisfaction from people and the environments around them, and public speaking is very much an extroverted activity, with extroverted deliverables.
Introverts tend to feel very vulnerable and exposed under the spotlight. What intensifies the fear of public speaking (also known as GLOSSOPHOBIA) is the voice of our own inner critic that always sits in judgement of everything we do. Put us in the spotlight, and the inner critic has a field day tearing into our self-esteem and it totally undermines our self-confidence.
Glossophobia is also compounded by our ego and gut instinct which filters every situation for levels and degrees of safety and security. Our primary response to stress is “fight or flight”, and seeming that those options are not really possible when you are standing in front of bosses, audiences or colleagues, the third ‘F’ tends to happen to many people when they have to speak up: they FREEZE!
So, what can you do when you go blank, when your knees start to buckle, and your heart starts to race faster that a bullet train heading for London?
Below are the top 5 strategies to help you to control your public speaking fear, and self-manage under intense public speaking pressure:
Breathing is the most useful technique available to manage your public speaking nerves and jitters. It is also probably the least known technique, because unless you have had voice training, you are unlikely to have been taught this revolutionary stress management technique.
Breathing controls every rhythm and technique in the human body, and it is the first rhythm that changes when we become triggered. The moment we get nervous, we start to breathe more rapidly and shallowly – the body is gears up for the primitive “fight / flight” response.
The speeding up (or holding of the breath under intense pressure) affects our brain functionality (thinking on your feet). Accelerated breathing also affects your vocal ability and control (your voice is solely the movement and control of breath in the body). The speeding up of our breathing patterns heightens our emotions, and it has dramatic fall out effects for the body (tightening up of muscles in the upper torso which negatively affects your voice).
By learning how to control your breathing rhythms under pressure, you immediately self-regulate and this helps you to regain control of your brain, emotions, body and voice under pressure.
Let’s be realistic: you will never completely get rid of your nerves and jitters, but the good news is that breath control techniques will help you to self-manage even under the most pressurised of circumstances.
Release stress through open body language
When you’re anxious, your poor body is going to be subject to major stress and tension. As legendary choreographer Martha Graham said: “The body never lies”. For most people the bulk of tension rests in the upper torso: head, neck and shoulders, which is an absolute disaster for presenting as your vocal mechanism rests in this major “fear pyramid”.
One of the best ways to limber up and relax is by physically opening up and releasing your nervous tension by opening up your body language. Put simply: a physical release leads to mental, emotional and vocal releases – exactly what presenters are looking for.
Channel nervous energy into modulation
Nervous energy has the same energy frequency as when we get excited. It is all emotion that needs to be expressed. A great way to offload your nervous energy is to channel it into modulation. Modulation is emotion in the voice – vocal variety and vocal dynamism.
By projecting and releasing built up energy and emotion into the voice, not only do you release pent up nervous energy; you also speak with far greater variety and modulation. This helps a speaker to gain and maintain attention.
Plan & Practice
You can never feel confident as a presenter unless to are on top of your facts, and are processed, rehearsed and prepared. This is even more of an issue for Analytical personality types (introverted and logical). Being unprepared is perhaps the greatest anxiety trigger for Analytical public speakers, so it is even more important that they plan and practice so they feel confident about their content.
Reframe your negative thoughts and fears
When we become nervous, our inner critics take over, and we go on a negative self-talk spiral. This toxic inner dialogue is the death knell for any public speaker. You can’t possibly engage, build relationships, entertain and motivate if you are crumbling and feeling very negative on the inside.
Every public speaker has a choice: you can spiral downwards in a pool of sweat, or you can take control of your mind and inner dialogue and choose to be calmer, and more positive and balanced. In truth, most audiences are willing to give you a chance. In fact, they are wanting you to succeed. Why wouldn’t they? Just ask yourself that.
You can re-frame your negative thoughts by repeating the following affirmations before you speak:
- The audience wants me to tell my story.
- I deserve to have a fair chance to speak up.
- The audience is only really listening as individuals – and I’m not scared of individuals!
- My audience deserves to be entertained and for me to give them value for their time.
- The more I enjoy myself, the more my audience will enjoy my speech.
Find the affirmation that works for you and make it your self-confidence mantrum. And just think: being in front of an audience is probably the safest place to be in this mad modern world!
Nothing can conquers your fear of public speaking like enrolling on public speaking courses where you can learn effective communication and presentation skills from an experienced executive coach. For more information on our various public speaking programmes, e-mail the Communication Guru John French at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a link to Communication Guru, John French’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-french-73499939/