public speaking_9ddd9cf786a244c5833f2f35b5c3087aDo you ever get an attack of the nerves before you have to speak in front of an audience?

Have you ever felt like running away when you had to stand up in a group and present on a topic?

Don’t worry, that’s fairly normal for most people.  In the last few years I have been privileged to be in a position to help many 100’s, maybe even 1000’s of people with their nerves when they have to present.  I thought it would be a good topic for a weekly communication and performance tip.

Firstly, why do we get the nerves or fearful when we have to speak?

One of the main reasons why we get the nerves when we speak, is that it attacks the very core of our social security.  Human beings have a strong need to be accepted and to belong and when we stand up in a public speaking context the potential failure or embarrassment that could result from a poor performance puts our security at risk.  Of course most of this only ever takes place in our minds.

If you were to speak to a group of people across the table at a dinner party about a topic of your expertise you wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but if you had to talk about that same topic in front of a group of managers or an audience of 60 people or more, sometimes it can be a different story!

Yes it is all in our minds and that is why different people will either experience or not experience the nerves depending on the environment and who is present or not.  For some, speaking to peers is no problem but turn that audience into senior managers and bam, the nerves kick in. What changed? Their perceived risk has…

Next time you need to present, take note of when and where you get nervous, as this will help you to form a strategy for future presentations.

Here are some strategies to help next time you have to get up in public and present on any given topic.

1. Meet and great people before you start

If time permits go and greet a few people or if you know them try and build rapport before you get up. This will help you to settle and feel you have friends in the audience when you start. This builds a bond between you and those you are about to speak to before you even begin.

2. Pace your speech and consciously speak a little slower

When we are nervous our speaking pace automatically speeds up.  By actively slowing down we return to a more normal speech pattern which helps relax the nerves.  The key thing here is that our vitals elevate when we are nervous so it may not appear to us that we are speaking faster but it generally will to the audience, so look out for it next time.

3. Breath in deeply and use strategic pausing

To build on the last point, don’t be afraid to have strategic pauses and try and breath more deeply.  When we are nervous our breathing becomes shallower which adds to the problem.  Don’t be afraid to have little, silent moments, as this will give the presentation space and help people to stay engaged.

4. Have a clear objective to use as a mental focus

This is a big point.  When we haven’t got a clear mental objective, our mind can easily make the nerves the focus.  If you know what your clear objective is when the nerves kick in, you can push them into the background by focusing on your objective, rather than how you are feeling at that moment.

Hope this gives you some strategies for your next presentation.  Look forward to getting your feedback on how you go.

To your success

David Patmore


Influencing Skills