You are not alone in dealing with public speaking nervousness. As CEO of Speak For Yourself® I have worked with 100s of clients from a variety of industries on this issue.
Over time I’ve written a couple of books on communication and selling and many articles on speaker anxiety.
Today “13” is your lucky number! My new e-book is a compilation of our top 13 short and strategic articles covering all angles of how to handle the fear of speaking once your name is called out, the crowd is applauding and you’re centerstage.
You’ll enjoy and gain usable strategies to get your nerves to work for you rather than against you.
I laugh with my clients when I tell them I’ll be their “ledge whisperer” on this issue. And I hope to be that same ledge-whisperer for you.
➜ If you’d like your free copy of this e-book send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with “Speaker Anxiety” in the Subject Line.
Breathe, enjoy and read this book.
You’ll get off that ledge and on to your next stage, boardroom or team meeting.
And you don’t even have to do a squat, burpee or a jumping jack.
“A study in Cell Reports Medicine showed that just five minutes of breathwork each day for about a month could improve mood and reduce anxiety,” reports Richard Sima in The Washington Post.
This report further claims that breathwork benefits may be larger than mindfulness meditation using the same amount of time.
A Huge Assist for Speaker Anxiety
One of the most significant issues facing our Speak For Yourself® clients is getting over stage fright. The outcome of this study, helpful in any nerve wracking situation, can apply when you’re giving a speech, on a panel, recording a video …
Participants: 108 adults, randomly controlled. They did this breathwork at home following video directions.
Activity: Researches compared 3 different 5-minute breathwork exercises. Some were deliberate guided breathing in various ways. Some did mindfulness meditation where participants observed their breathing but did not try to control it.
Results: “After 28 days, participants in both the mindfulness meditation and breathwork groups reported having more positive feelings and fewer negative ones compared with before they began their respective practices.” Both groups reported reduced feelings of anxiety. (WAPO)
“That’s not bad for five min/day,” said David Spiegel, an author of the study. “It seems that practicing some control over your respiration is a kind of entry into one way of controlling your autonomic activity.”
The Accumulation Effect: These positive effects did take time to kick in. The more the participants spent doing this breathwork, the better they felt each successive day.
The ROI for you
When you get anxious you breathe faster. By doing this breathwork you can control and relax your physical state and slow down your breathing.
Can you take a few minutes to control your breathing, connect with your body and encourage it to deal with what you want to deal with… like your upcoming presentation?
Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Increase the number of seconds and repeat and repeat.
Are you busy “doing” vs “being”? (OK – rather zen-ish but think about it.)
Photo: by Karen Cortell Reisman @ Barcelona Park Guell
Did you learn in grade school that when you give a presentation you must “act” a certain way?
Going full Shakespeare
Here’s what we see with our Speak For Yourself® clients: When you stand up to deliver your message you transform! The real you goes missing and you go full Shakespeare. Or, conversely, you become muted.
Where did “you” go?
The best mental exercise to sound like yourself at the lectern & reduce performance anxiety
Think about a friend that you meet with to just hang out and talk.
What’s the location? Where are you when you have these chats?
What are you drinking? (Doesn’t have to be alcoholic.)
Some recent client responses:
Person: His brother. Watering hole: A campsite at their 700 acre family ranch. Drink: Blanton’s Bourbon
His mother. Back porch by the pool. Iced tea with lime and mint.
Her husband. Their Crested Butte house on the deck – drinking chilled dry Grey Goose martini.
When you are giving a speech imagine you’re talking to your buddy, in your favorite hang-out location, sipping on your drink of choice.
THAT’S the voice and tone you want to project at your board meeting, panel, or quarterly townhall.
Fill in these blanks and add to our blog comments. Picture that set up at your next event. You will sound conversational and like you.
So, tonight when I’m being interviewed as a “Local Legend” of National Speakers Association – N. TX Chapter I’m going to imagine I’m with my husband, sitting on the porch of our Star Ranch, sipping Glenlivet neat.
PS: check out our new website! www.speakforyourself.com
Even CEOs and veteran presenters commit these presentation skills’ crimes!
COMMUNICATION MISTAKE #1: Misunderstanding audience expectations.
Don’t be the team that works only on presenting your solutions to the client or prospect. Be the group that gathers this intel first:
Where is prospect pain? What makes them tick? What are they good at? Who competes with them? Where can they improve? What defines success for them? How knowledgeable are they about your topic? Experience range?
COMMUNICATION MISTAKE #2: Memorizing your speech.
Don’t commit your speech to memory. Just know how you will start and how you will end.
What should you get yourself in order to speak with confidence?
We @ Speak For Yourself® have curated the best gifts, by category, to help you check this quest off your gift-buying list.
A smile, good posture, and effective eye contact cost nothing.
Have you heard the phrase, “Fake it till you make it?” You may feel uncomfortable but you can appear as if you own Manhattan by your facial expression, stance and eyeball connection.
Clothing & Accessories
Buy clothes you love that fit the group and venue you’re speaking at.
Buy shoes that you can stand in, for hours, that look great. (Good luck.) For women – I’ve seen some fabulous post-pandemic glittery sneakers that have rocked the stage.
Buy yourself a Story Journal. Write down the funny stuff that happens. Keep a story log of events inside and outside your professional world. Then find ways to make these stories relevant when you run your company town halls / strategic retreats / quarterly zoom meetings. You will resonate more with your various audiences, which in turn will increase your confidence.
Besides the obvious – your computer, auxiliary cords, and remote wireless clicker if you use visuals, also purchase back up batteries, a decent pen, old fashioned note pad, and a thumb drive with your material (even if everything is in the cloud). Having your tech arsenal ready and available will add to your comfort level.
Food & Drink
Some of my clients beg me to agree that a shot of vodka will boost confident communication. No. That won’t work, and your holiday gift list to yourself does not include a trip to your wine store. Here are foods and a great drink that will boost your energy:
Some type of protein or a protein shake.
Easy food that will not drip onto your clothes like a piece of fruit or nuts.
(I always take a protein bar, a banana and some nuts to my speaking venues to snack on.)
Your best drink: room temp water to hydrate your vocal cords.
OK – chocolates are always a good thing to have on hand.
Can you think of other items to add to our holiday Communicate With Confidence gift list?
Fear of public speaking is a common form of anxiety. Everyone gets nervous before giving a speech. Full disclosure – I get nervous too. In fact I rarely eat much before a presentation. (About 15 minutes into my speech or workshop I’m starving!)
How can anxiety be useful in public speaking?
Public speaking creates an increase in adrenaline. What you do with this extra jolt separates those that become miserable at the lectern vs those that become more energized.
How can you capitalize on this extra jolt of energy?
Accept the obvious. Do NOT wish this anxiety to go away. That takes you down a slippery negative slope. You can’t undo these nerves and then you feel even more anxiety when the nervousness persists!
Do the reverse. Say to yourself, “Great – I’ve got this extra energy. All good.”
Think of this boost of adrenaline as a shot of caffeine.
Do all of the steps we’ve blogged about to ensure your success, like being prepared, knowing your audience, getting to the venue early, drinking room temp water, practicing out loud and doing some pre vocal warmups.
What happens if you are NOT nervous/excited?
What if your upcoming speech is the 29th time you’re giving the exact same message? You’re almost lethargic. Not good!
Find ways to add some nervousness/energy … as counter-intuitive as this sounds.
Shake it up – rework your topic.
Create new visuals.
Try new material.
The paradox of the fear of public speaking
You need the extra adrenaline. Use it to add more energy to your delivery. It’s a good thing.
Author: Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself®, a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and she always has nuts or a protein bar with her at a speaking gig to snack on once her appetite kicks in.