FIRST AID FOR YOUR NERVES
How to combat anxiety before showdown?
Jerry Springer once pointed out that the people attending a funeral would rather lie in the casket than give the eulogy. Does this seem farfetched to you? Speaking in public is terrifying to most of us, yet it is a skill that we use daily.
Good speaking skills are not in your genes, they are something you have to learn. Your aversion to public speaking roots in our fear of public humiliation. While a little adrenaline sharpens your mind and gives a boost to your performance, too much anxiety cripples.
First Aid for your nerves:
- Breathe! The most simple but effective way to handle nerves. Before your presentation, go somewhere (your office, the bathroom) and breathe deeply. Just count to 5 while inhaling slowly, then count to 5 exhaling. Do this for at least 2 minutes to feel a calming effect (you will also feel the effect on your voice). Your brain will get the oxygen it needs and the slower pace will trick your body into believing you are calmer.
- Flex & relax. It’s another great way to reduce the tension in your body. I often practice this; first flex all the muscles in your body for 5 seconds (also all the muscles in your face). Then relax all your muscles. Then flex all your muscles again for 5 seconds. And then relax. What happens to your body? Your body automatically relaxe after such an intense activation. So you charge the stage feeling more relaxed. You can also do a workout to reach this effect, but most people just don’t have the time for this.
- Visualize success. Imagine a standing ovation and/or smiles and cheers from the audience. Visualize the best possible outcome instead of worrying over the worst case scenario. Some of my clienst even have a personal mantra they say to themselves before they go on stage. Repeating a phrase like ‘I can do this’ or ‘I’m going to rock!’ while looking into a mirror can actually help.
- Power pose. Amy Cuddy is a researcher at Harvard University who studies body language. Cuddy and her team have classified different body positions as “high power” or “low power” poses. The high power pose we call the ‘power pose’ is very effective in boosting self confidence before a presentation. Or on any given day that you can use a boost of confidence. Please see this short video on how to perform this exercise: https://youtu.be/C4ACeoqEjeA. Just 2 minutes has proven to have an effect on the way you present yourself.
- Fake confidence. Even if you feel insecure and your heart is racing. Walk with your head high and a smile on your face. Fake it until you become it.
- Before you start talking, pause, make eye contact, and smile. This last moment of peace is very relaxing and gives you time to adjust to being the center of attention.
- Speak slowly. Slow down more than in a usual conversation and leave longer breaks. This will calm you down and will also make it easier for the audience to hear you.
There is one other way to rid yourself of nerves that is often neglected: practice. I always ask my clients to memorize the first minute of their presentation. This first minute is the most important (and taunting) one as your audience will instantly judge you. By memorizing the opening, it will help you get through this first minute without scratches as familiarity brings confidence.
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