Handling a Case of Nerves
Ever had a case of instant “dry mouth” before a big presentation or felt like your legs were shaking so violently you’d never be able to walk onstage to give your talk?
Guess what? You’re not alone.
The symptoms you’ve experienced are well known even by seasoned professional public speakers. But what they know (and you’re about to learn) is how to get through even the roughest case of nerves.
Put some or all of the following techniques into practice, and you’ll be able to control your fears… rather than letting your fears control you.
Accept Your AnxietyFirst and foremost, it’s essential to accept your anxiety. Most people spend precious minutes before a speech demanding themselves to “calm down”. Ironically, this only serves to make them even more edgy.
Instead of trying to force your uneasiness to instantly disappear through the use of mental and verbal admonishments, allow yourself to acknowledge your nervousness. Rather than berating yourself for being shaky, tell yourself, “It’s okay to feel worried. But you know you can do this.” In essence, you’ll be acting as your own best friend, because those words are what someone who cared about you would say in the situation.
Physical IndicatorsNext, if you find that you are having physical indicators related to your panic, you must be prepared to deal with each symptom on an individual basis.
For instance, gastrointestinal problems can land you in the restroom time and again, wasting rehearsal or networking time. If you know you’re likely to have distress of this kind, take a pre-emptive approach and eat a light snack (high protein, low fat) before your presentation. Additionally, you can ingest one of the many stomach ailment remedies on the market as long as you’ve tested it beforehand to ensure it works for you.
Nervously shaking arms, legs, lips, hands, and feet can be controlled using a combination of deep breathing and relaxing poses (such as those demonstrated in yoga, tai chi, and Pilates classes.) That being said, if you’re one who cannot quiet yourself this way, you may need to take more active measures. Jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, and other heart-pumping activities have been known to calm some public speakers. Try both methods and see which works best for you!
Excessive perspiring is another physical concern for numerous speechmakers, and it can cause extreme discomfort and embarrassment (who wants to appear sopping wet before a crowd?) Ladies and gents may both want to invest in a heavy-duty antiperspirant and deodorant which can be applied to the chest, stomach, and back (areas that commonly produce copious amounts of sweat during a bad case of the nerves.) Additionally, wearing lighter weight clothing can help. And if you need to, bring a handkerchief with you to pat your forehead and neck (just don’t do it in front of the audience unless absolutely necessary, as it appears unrefined and can make the audience uncomfortable.)
Dry mouth can be treated by taking small sips of cool water (no other beverage is as effective) before and during your speech. But unless you have a terrible cold, never chew gum or suck on cough drops or mints while speaking to a crowd. Yes, those little candies will reduce your dry mouth, but it’s simply not suitable in a more sophisticated setting.
Finally, if you suffer from mental symptoms brought on by “stage fright” apprehension, you may want to consider seeking out the help of a medical professional or therapist who can assist you in such symptoms as insomnia, memory lapses, or inability to speak when faced with an audience. Of course, if you’d prefer, you can try to gain control of your mind without a health pro’s assistance. For example, you can implement exercises that involve repeating “mantras” as “calming” mechanisms.
No matter how you choose to defeat your nerves, remember that conquering any fears is within your control. Many famous speech makers have overcome similar anxieties. And you can, too.