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How to Get Rid of Nervousness Before a Big Speech

Eighty percent of success is showing up - Woody Allen

You’ve got a big speech coming up. You feel nervous – hands sweating, butterflies in your stomach, nausea. Are you going to mess up and make a fool of yourself in front of everyone? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Everyone has these feelings.

You may be surprised, but for many public speakers, they experience the exact same levels of nervousness. However they use a certain suit of tools to combat anxiety. Some people, particularly introverts, have a hard time training themselves how to keep calm and collected on-stage during their speech. They become too busy fighting their own butterflies, internal conflict and shyness – which manifests itself in their body language.

Good speakers have a simple skill that carries them through during their speeches in front of the large audiences-they gain mastery over themselves and their emotions and give themselves sufficient time in order to formulate their thoughts and deliver them effectively. Poor speakers always trap themselves into corner when asked to speak. They stop focusing on the speech itself and instead begin worrying about how the audience perceives them.

Good speakers have a way of captivating the audiences and appearing confident and in charge of the stage.

The root of the problem lies in lack of confidence

Nervousness is often a result of lack of confidence. You might have good confidence in your knowledge and grasp of issues but if you are nervous, you most probably lack confidence in yourself.  When you lack confidence, the fear of the unknown will take over and you find yourself unable to deliver on important public speaking opportunities.

The good thing is that confidence is a skill which can be learned. You can learn and build confidence through practice.  Once you realize that a lack of confidence will limit your potential irrespective of your intelligence and abilities, your task will be to work ceaselessly on your confidence so as to perform effectively in situations without a hint of nervousness. There are plenty of steps that you can take in life to get rid of nervousness and build bulletproof confidence that will help you navigate plenty of tricky situations. Here are some of the important tips that you can incorporate in your daily routine:-

Think of nervousness as a private affair

People won’t notice you are anxious until you “tell” them so through your body language. Be a master at disguising your feelings and know that any nervousness that you feel is simply between you and yourself.

Be prepared

If you suffer from nervousness when you are about to address people, then one of the steps that you could take before giving an important speech or presentation is being adequately prepared. Do your homework well and work on the material very meticulously. Having a solid grasp of your material will instil you with a sense of confidence that allows you to perform without nervousness.

Put the presentations into perspective

A lot of the fear that we have when it comes public speaking or presentations can be broadly termed as the fear of the unknown. No one is going to laugh at you, arrest you, judge you too harshly or pay even very close attention to you when you are giving a presentation. On the contrary, the reaction would be sharper if you give a very sloppy presentation where you end up turning yourself into the main attraction.

One question that you can ask yourself before giving an important presentation is “what is the worst that could happen to me?” At the end of the presentation, you will still be breathing, with your same circle of friends and networks, your job intact and your knowledge and grasp of issues also intact. As a famous American President and statesman once said, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Take a couple of belly breaths

Belly breathing is a very effective way of relieving stress and tension in your body.  It will help you overcome those negative thoughts and feelings and bring you back to the present moment where you can focus on the matter at hand. Sit and take 30 belly breaths and you will experience a calm and more relaxed feeling.

Rehearse and rehearse well

Experienced public speakers and presenters can deliver very compelling performances with very little practice. If nervousness is something that you really grapple with when delivering presentations, you must rehearse well. An effective technique that even the most accomplished speakers use is practicing in front of the mirror numerous times until you feel you can deliver the presentation “like an automaton”.  Rehearsal is often the best insurance against panic attacks when you are delivering presentations. You are unlikely to forget the lines due to panic when you have rehearsed very well.

Look good

Dressing well for a performance will significantly boost your confidence ahead of a presentation. Groom well and choose nice fitting clothes that leave you comfortable. If you like what you see on the mirror ahead of an important presentation, you are likely to strut to the platform with a healthy self-confidence.

Talk to your audience

You can relieve the tension by developing a brief “familiarity” with some members of your audience ahead of the presentation. Come early and engage in some brief conversations with the members of your audience. When you know you have a few “acquaintances” sitting in the crowd, you will be able to relieve some of the tension that you were feeling.

Memorize the stickier points

There can be stickier points in your presentation or speech that you have a problem articulating clearly. It is important to memorize these points for ease of delivery and to avoid tripping over your speech and presentation.

Accept the fear

Acceptance is something they teach a lot in the yoga classes and that is because it works. When you are nervous and you notice it and you begin fighting it back, you will be draining useful energy that could be better expended delivering a good presentation. Fear is part of the human experience. Even the most brilliant performers experience fear. Accept it and focus on delivering a good presentation in spite of the fear.

Survey the environment

Come early or even a day before the presentation and scope out the presentation venue. Look at where people will be sitting and any potential problems that may arise during the presentation. Work on these ahead of time.  Interruptions or little obstacles can really be a drain on your nerves.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.