Female:I like to relate speaking anxiety to performance anxiety in sports. Some of the techniques used by athletes help my students and clients be successful when they speak. They may help you too. It’s not an all-or-none mindset. Don’t let anyone tell you that no stress is a positive. Russian sports psychologist, Yuri Hanin’s research shows that we all have different tolerances and uses for stress hormones during our peak performance. Being completely calm and serene may work for some before they present, and may be disastrous for others.
As you try some of these techniques in this course, be sure to maintain a healthy amount of butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling. Use your breath. If being out of breath when you get nervous makes you uncomfortable, use slow breathing, in, 2, 3, 4, and out 2, 3, 4. Use these cycles to calm and center yourself. Remember to use your breath as you pause between sentences.
Nervous speakers tend to speak faster which makes them sound hurried and tough to follow. If your heart rate jumps making your breathing rate rise, when you’re in front of a group practice in that state. Run up a flight of stairs. Walk into your practice room and start your presentation. The more you do this, the less frazzled you would feel when this happens automatically in front of a group. Desensitize your brain. Football and basketball coaches regularly run practices while the sound of loud crowds is piped into their arenas.
Capitalize on that idea by practicing in the same space where you’ll be giving your presentation. Even post a face on the screen that you practice with. Dress up. Avoid practicing in comfortable clothes. If your big day requires a suit, a belt, or a tie, heels, there’s a different feel to performance gear and casual gear. If you’re going to be wearing a specific outfit on your presentation day, practice in that too.
Warm up. On the day of your presentation, go to the room early. After setting up all your technology, walk around to the front, or sit around the conference table to get at ease. Greet people when they walk into the room and start small talk to get more comfortable. Visualize success. Athletes make perfect passes and goals thousands of times in their heads before the real thing.
See yourself speaking in front of a group speaking comfortably, owning your space, hitting all of your points, smiling to the audience and interacting with them. It’s also not a bad idea to imagine the audience looking disinterested while you calmly focus on the 1 person who’s not doodling. Visualize yourself both succeeding and overcoming obstacles. Practice with technology. Needless to say, that when technology is involved something’s bound to go wrong.
Control what you can by having your visuals in a backup location, having extra clicker batteries, enough handouts for the audience, and if a microphone is involved, plenty of time to figure out where not to stand in the room. Knowing that you have a backup plan will make you feel more comfortable and alleviate some of the stress. Fuel for victory. Too much caffeine can irritate your stomach and increase your heart rate. Too little water can give you a headache and keep your throat dry, and not enough complex carbohydrates like whole wheat toast, oatmeal, pasta will leave your brain running on fumes.
If you tend to get nervous before speaking, switch to herbal tea, or avoid too much sugar and stay hydrated. Last, it’s not all about you. Even though speaking anxiety revolves around thinking of yourself and your feelings, remember that you’re there to meet the needs of your audience. Focus your energy outward and give them what they need. Empathize with their problems and be the facilitator to their solution. Switching your perspective from yourself to your audience is a winning mindset for your next presentation.