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You Should Be Nervous Before You Speak

Nerves are natural and normal. However, they can still disrupt a speech or presentation. This article contains three scientifically proven and practical strategies to help you remain focused and composed during your next speaking engagement.

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You should be nervous before your next presentation or speaking engagement. Right off the bat, you know that your performance could have serious implications or consequences on your career. Then there’s the fact that you’ll be all alone in front of a number of people, some of whom may be more knowledgeable than you. Additionally, anything can go wrong during your delivery. For instance, your technology could fail, you may be challenged on something you’ve said, or you could simply forget to mention a piece of critical information. To top it all off, you’ll only have one shot at delivering. There are plenty of reasons to feel anxious before and during your speaking engagement, but don’t panic just yet. Help is on the way!

In the here and now…

There is a mountain of content available regarding the importance of preparation and breathing before you’re up front with all eyes on you. Although, I strongly support both strategies, I’d like to offer some supplementary advice. Even when you understand the value of preparation and breathing, you may still get nervous in front of an audience. Then what do you do? The reality is, even professional speakers, such as myself, still get hit with the occasional jolt of anxiety. When that happens, I’m afraid that it’s too late for preparation, and the audience might appear slightly puzzled if you begin a deep breathing technique.

Previously, I recommended a mindset shift to help your audience understand your message. I’d like to now offer three additional methods to help. The following are three scientifically proven and practical strategies you can utilize to keep your nerves at bay while you speak. They have each been modified for ease of use and adaption to any circumstances.

1.     Hold an object in one hand

This may seem counterintuitive as you may feel the need to use your hands to gesture effectively. However, holding an object such as a laser pointer, remote, or even a pen can help you reduce the adrenaline flow and remain composed. This strategy is an adaptation of an existing cognitive behavioral therapy technique known as “sensory grounding”. In essence, the feeling or touching sensation can provide a sense of comfort and may override the influx of adrenaline.

2.     Maintain a strong posture

Posture impacts your composure, and composure impacts your ability to speak effectively. This strategy boils down to providing yourself the best chance to be successful. When you attempt to speak with poor posture, you risk feeling more anxious than with correct posture. Poor posture can negatively impact your breathing, body language, train of thought, and overall voice projection. This happens because your body and mind are not aligned as you begin speaking. So be mindful of your posture, and if you catch yourself folding inward or slouching, recalibrate: Roll your shoulders back, straighten your spine, and level your chin. I recommend the “Alexander Technique” to reduce stress and maintain a strong composure.

3.     Smile and keep smiling

Smiling may be the most underrated solution to speaking or presentation anxiety. It has so many powerful benefits, and yet many speakers overlook the impact of smiling due to its simplicity. First of all, forming a smile has been scientifically proven to improve your mood, which is an asset when you’re in a stressful situation (such as a presentation). It will help you to relax and keep the nerves at bay, especially as you begin to speak. Not to mention, smiling will make you appear more confident to your audience. Additionally, smiling has an even greater impact on your audience. Upon observing a smiling speaker, the audience is transformed to a more pleasant state of mind as well. You can actually impact their mood and reception of your speaking by smiling. And the cherry on top is when you see them begin to smile back at you, you’ll gain confidence and feel even more comfortable. Go forth and smile!

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful and I wish you success in all of your speaking endeavors!

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