I wasn’t sure if he could find his mouth. The microphone kept rapidly moving between his nose and his mouth. His words had a trembling sound to them and I just knew he didn’t want to be up there. Beads of sweat were starting to form right above his eyebrows and you just knew at any minute, he was going to spontaneously combust. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration but that’s what it looked like on the outside. I can only imagine what he felt on the inside.
“…to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld
Most of us have a fear of something at some point in life. But for many people, that is speaking. It could be a simple presentation at the office in front of 5 people. But, standing up in front of people to speak immediately conjures up images of an entire audience of grim reapers with their bony fingers pointed at you. People fear embarrassment; they fear judgment; they feel as if they are going to get the buzzer at any moment, just waiting for Simon Cowell’s voice, “That was the most horrific thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
While some people avoid speaking, other HAVE to do it for one reason or another. You need to:
* lead a meeting
* emcee an event
* moderate a panel discussion
* give an award or recognition presentation
* receive a recognition
* deliver your business pitch
* speak at your church
* give a presentation
* introduce yourself at a networking or local business event.
The question is, “how do I speak without being nervous or afraid?”
The answer is, “You don’t really”.
Huh? Let me explain by sharing a few tips for calming the storm BEFORE you speak.
1. Reframe your nerves. Assume nerves will always be there. But, think of them as a warm up activity before the main event. When you wake up in the morning, your body is a bit tight. So, you stretch at some point after getting up in order to release some of the synovial fluid. This allows you to move around more smoothly. Reframe those butterflies as your body’s way of stretching before the big game.
2. Get there early. If the situation is unfamiliar, it can be nerve-wracking to deal with the unfamiliarity as well as being nervous about your speech. So, get there early. Learn the lay of the land. Talk to the people who are there early. Learn some names.
3. Take a few deep breaths. When you get nervous, your heart races. Your blood pressure rises. Your pores constrict. You get tense and tighten up. Pause, close your eyes and take three to four deep breaths. Not sure how long a deep breath is? Try breathing in slowly to the count of four. Then exhale slowly to the count of four. This will help slow everything down.
4. You’re better than they are. This sounds a bit pompous and arrogant, doesn’t it? What I mean is you’re doing something the greater part of the population isn’t. You’re standing in front. The majority of people are petrified to do this but there you are, getting ready to stand in front. You’re brave. You’re a warrior. You’re really doing something special. Don’t minimize it. Celebrate it!
5. Practice. It might feel weird talking to yourself in front of the mirror for hours. Well, then don’t do that. Instead, talk out loud while you are driving. Use your phone’s recording capability to help you practice. Repeat your speech, in it’s entirety, in your mind 3-4 times. Then, say it out loud at least 4 times. The more you can say it and become familiar with it, the less you have to worry about stumbling over words. It doesn’t need to be exact or verbatim every time. It just needs to have the proper impact.
I can’t guarantee there aren’t people who haven’t died while speaking. But, I do know that most people don’t. How’s that for encouraging. Kidding aside, speaking won’t kill you. It’s a great way to share your thoughts and/or your story. Take on the challenge!
If you need help, please let me know.