September, 2010

Nerves are Natural and Normal. Use them to your Advantage!

Quotation of the month:
"Stage fright is a deceptive term. It implies that you will feel nervous the moment you get up on stage, when in fact you are nervous from the moment you get the assignment. "
–Steve Allen

"There are two kinds of speakers: those who are nervous and those who are liars!"
Mark Twain

The degree of stage fright varies from person to person, and from situation to situation. It can range from nominal nervousness to paralyzing panic. On a continuum for 1 to 10, where are you?


Opening: Are you someone who feels nervous or anxious, when you're expected to introduce yourself to a group, address a meeting or have to present?

Do you realize that even experienced speakers are nervous before they speak?

Do you also know that nervousness can be a good thing and that you can use it to your advantage?

Promise: A degree of nervousness is a good thing and is a normal part of presenting. It tells you that what you're going to do is important to you and reminds you to do your best. It also gives you the extra rush of energy which can result in a more animated, passionate and powerful delivery. However, your nerves can be lessened and you will be a more comfortable, effective, and eager speaker if you delve into and reflect on the following four areas of nervousness.

Roadmap: Let's examine three areas of nervousness:
  • understanding
  • recognizing
  • accepting your nervous habits

Understanding Your Nervousness

Most people feel nervous when speaking in front of an audience. Taken to the extreme, if the notion of speaking is making you avoid work or course assignments, or is even handicapping your career, you need to learn how to cope with your nervousness. Maybe you've earned a reputation as being knowledgeable and credible in a specific field and you want and or need others to hear what you have to say, but your nervousness holds you back. Can you relate to this? You CAN do something about it. You CAN learn to be a confident, comfortable speaker.

Are you nervous because you think you'll make a mistake, forget a line, or lose your spot? Guess what? You're human and therefore not infallible. If you miss a line or two, no one knows that, as only YOU knows YOUR exact script. Just carry on. And if you lose your spot, rely on your bullet point notes and just pick up from there.

If right from the start you establish a likeable rapport with your audience, connect with them, and give them a valuable message, they will be endeared to you and also be forgiving, if you happen to make an occasional stumble. (The operative word here is 'occasional') An audience doesn't need or expect perfection; they want personable and of course, someone who is prepared.

Recognizing Nervous Habits
Are you aware of any nervous habits?

  • Pacing on the platform?
  • Fidgeting with hands, hair, clothing?
  • Having no eye contact with audience?
  • Uttering many um's and ah's, filler words?
  • Speaking too slowly or too fast without any pauses?
  • Standing rooted to one spot, maybe clinging to the lectern?
  • Experiencing butterflies in stomach?
  • Experiencing dry mouth, "jello" knees, racing heart?
  • Any others symptoms you experience????
Check out the Panic to Power CD at the bottom of the newsletter for information on handling anxiety. This CD is specifically designed to help ease your anxiety.

Accepting Your Nervousness

Rather than spending time focusing on and trying to control or overcome your nerves, accept the fact that you are supposed to feel a degree of nervousness, since the success of your speech is important to you. Don't give power and attention to your nerves as they will control you. The Law of Attraction states that you draw whatever it is that you focus on. In other words, what you focus on, expands. So focus on positives. The 5 points below will deal with an attitudinal mindset.
  1. Alter your mindset – turn your feeling of nervousness into feeling of positive energy; use this energy to your advantage
  2. Believe in and focus on your message – you have a valuable message for others to hear; speak from your heart with conviction (heart always win over head)
  3. Refocus spotlight on to the audience, not on you – speaking is about them, not you. The audience needs to learn your lesson, so focus on and concern yourself with your purpose for them and the benefits they will receive.
  4. Connect with your audience – by anchoring your points with your personal stories, ' You" focused reflective questions, your emotions, and your genuine concern for them.
  5. Understand that the audience wants you to succeed. They are not your enemy and they don't want you to fail; otherwise it is painful for them too!
I encourage you to try to understand and recognize your nervousness, but don't place focus on or try to control your nerves as they will become the focus and they will control you. Instead, accept that nervousness is part of presenting. View it as a good thing, since it reminds you that your presentation is important to you and it gives you that extra energy for a more animated, passionate delivery.

The Little Engine That Could The Little Engine That Could said:
I think I can, I think I can!
I challenge you to say:
I KNOW I can, I KNOW I can!! ...AND YOU WILL!!

Which of these tips have you possibly adopted in the past? If you're at the point where you feel these tips for dealing with your fear of speaking are not needed, share them with others whom you feel may benefit from knowing them. If you feel are needed more advice, encouragement and suggestions, I invite you to take a look at the Panic to Power CD below.

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  • about the 10X Phenomenon
  • how to make your nerves work for you, instead of against you
  • how to connect with your audience before you speak
  • and much, much more
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Simply click on the CD graphic below to generate a mail order form OR the Pay Pal button to order on line.

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Join me next month when we look at the letter "O" as it relates to another speaking skill. Until then, happy speaking!

Certified World Class Speaking Coach

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