Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a wonderful weekend…it’s pretty wet and miserable where we are but, as someone reminded me today, we shouldn’t moan about the weather when people are suffering so much worse weather than us at the moment! If by any chance you are reading this in the aftermath of hurricane Irma then I do hope you are all ok and managed to stay safe. Oh for goodness sake…I’ve started by talking about the weather AGAIN!! So…moving swiftly on, I thought I would use today’s Monday motivation to talk about public speaking.
I have written a few posts about fear and going out of your comfort zone and it’s something that I think I feel quite strongly about so I thought I would dedicate today’s Monday Motivation to imparting a bit of wisdom. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I’m never backward in coming forward when it comes to giving advice and I always speak my mind – I think I probably get that from my Mum! When it comes to fears I’m afraid of the normal things like spiders and moths (butterflies too!) but the one thing that so many other people across the world are scared of is something that I actually quite enjoy and that’s public speaking. Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t feel completely fearless standing in front of a room of 500 people talking for half an hour about rocket science or the global economic crisis but, give me a topic I am fairly knowledgeable about and I’d be pretty confident I could hold an audience’s attention.
I have definitely not always felt comfortable talking in front of a group of people, it’s something I have got better at which means I feel I am moderately qualified to pass on a few tips to help you if speaking in public is something that absolutely terrifies you. These same tips work for any sort of situation where you are putting yourself out there in front of people – whether it be a performance or a job interview – these are all times when we feel vulnerable and uneasy and can often leave us feeling anxious for weeks in the run up to the event. So here are my 5 top tips for calming your nerves when it comes to public speaking.
1. Recognise that nerves are not a bad thing
It is normal to feel nervous in such a situation and nerves actually help us perform better by giving us that adrenaline that helps put energy and passion into our performance. However, uncontrollable nerves can have a very negative effect and leave us stumbling over our words or even worse, going completely blank or freezing on stage. The thing about nerves is that they feel very similar to the feeling of excitement. The butterflies in the stomach and the sweaty palms are the same – whether excited or nervous. So now, when I start feeling nervous about something I just tell myself ‘I’m excited!’. “I’ve got to do a presentation at work next week, I’m so excited!”. “I’m so excited about my job interview tomorrow!”. It may sound daft, but the more you say it, the more you believe it. If someone asks me “are you nervous?” my instant response is “No! I’m excited!”.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
If have to give a talk in front of 50 people and you try to wing it then you probably have a good reason to be worried! You need to know the subject you are talking about inside out and back to front. If you do, then you will be prepared for every eventuality. When I first started delivering sales training sessions I would have been completely lost if I’d have arrived at the venue and there had been no Powerpoint available. However, after a while I could quite confidently have delivered a 3 hour training session with just a pen and a flip chart. Once you know your stuff you are covered. If you are performing in a play or singing in a band the same thing applies – if you know your lines inside out then you can go on stage with confidence knowing that you are fully prepared. I sing in a choir and occasionally perform the odd solo. My biggest fear is forgetting my words. In order to calm my nerves I write the first line of my solo on my hand. I know that once I start I am fine, it’s only ever that first line that I worry about so if it’s written on my hand I’ve always got it with me. So far I have never needed it, but it’s my comfort blanket and it keeps me calm and confident on the stage.
3. Have an anchor –
My nerves and anxiety around performing and public speaking definitely changed once I had children. I firmly believe when you understand that there are so many more important things in the world than this speech that you are about to deliver you feel so much better about it. Andrew suffers terribly from nerves around public speaking and when he had to do regular presentations in a previous job we talked about finding him an anchor, something that reminded him of what was actually important. He chose a lego man! He kept it in his pocket and would hold it in his hand and it instantly reminded him of the children which gave him a feeling of calm and perspective. I had a friend that used to keep a photo of his children in his pocket for the same reason and I think anything that helps you feel grounded is a great tool for helping reduce nerves.
4. Create instant rapport
This tip is particularly useful in an interview situation or in a presentation but also works in performing too. When I did my course in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) we learnt a lot about rapport and some great tricks in how to create instant rapport with someone. If you want someone to like you or warm to you it is important to create rapport with them but that can often be difficult in a situation like delivering a training session, giving a presentation, public speaking or in a job interview. We don’t really get the opportunity in these situations to chat about our likes and dislikes, ask people about their family or chat about the weather! So a great tip I learnt is, just before you start – whether you are talking, presenting, performing or being interviewed – take a deep breath and think about someone you love. Try it now….what do you feel? Are you smiling? Feeling warm inside? It’s a pretty powerful feeling and the people around you will feel it too. Doing this not only helps to relax you but it makes people warm to you straight away – they will suddenly be very interested in everything you have to say!
5. Enjoy your moment
We don’t often get an opportunity to present about a topic we are passionate about, to perform in front of an audience or, in the case of an interview – to blow our own trumpet. Take your moment and enjoy it and make the most of it. There is seriously no better feeling than coming away from a talk or presentation where you know you did a great job. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve gone to deliver a training session to a large group of people and really not felt up to it, but once I got started and it has begun to go well it’s been such a great experience and I’ve gone away buzzing!
So there you have it – my top tips for overcoming your fear of public speaking. I hope you found them helpful and let me know if you have tried any of these and how they worked. Have you ever had to deliver a speech and actually been surprised with how well it went?
Until next time…