Calm your Nerves

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Calm your Nerves

14 Ways to Calm your Nerves

By Caroline Nderitu HSC

It is normal to get nervous, anxious, or maybe even terrified and totally panic stricken before giving a presentation. Be that as it may, do not allow the fear of public speaking keep you in your seat or away from the action. Use the tips below to free yourself!

"Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances" - Thomas Jefferson

1. Practice your talk out loud

  • Ensure you are well prepared
  • Get comfortable with the material well in advance
  • Make video recordings of yourself giving the presentation and watch the playbacks. See and hear yourself from your audience’s perspective

2. Positive thinking/Visualisation

  • Envision yourself making a successful speech, receiving a standing ovation. Picture yourself presenting in a confident and self-assured manner.
  • Recognise the moment as an opportunity to shine, to get recognition, to have your name on top of the list for promotion, election or even remuneration
  • Reinforce optimistic internal dialogue, talk yourself into being at your best
  • Don’t sabotage your performance by thinking negatively

3. Get there early

  • Set up and have a thorough run-through 
  • Avoid being in a rush on the day, allow ample time to travel and set up
  • Get comfortable with the venue and the equipment

4. Greet people as they arrive

  • Interact with guests as they turn up
  • Exchange pleasantries to help you relax and calm your nerves
  • Get comfortable with the group so that you are no longer a stranger

5. Undertake some relaxation exercises

  • Deep breathing before you begin - Calms you, centres you
  • Yawn to relax your throat
  • Take a deep breath so you can get through your opening lines without mumbling or speeding up. 
  • Pace yourself, do not rush through it, stay calm
  • Remember to pause between sentences and breathe

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." - Mark Twain

6. Harness your nervous energy

  • As you speak do not be a statue, moving will help to release the nervous energy generated by adrenaline 
  • Project your voice to release the excess energy
  • Exude enthusiasm and vitality

7. Adopt a conversational tone of voice

  • Speak/present as if you are chatting with the audience
  • Think of it as just two people having a conversation, you and the listener

8. Tell stories

  • To break the ice and establish rapport
  • To illustrate your points and make your presentation memorable
  • To entertain and connect with your audience

9. Ask questions during your talk

  • Build dialogue 
  • Increase the feeling of participation
  • Discuss, ask for feedback, share your time with the audience
  • Shifting the focus and attention to members of the audience gives you a moment to relax and organise your thoughts

10. Do not worry if you make a mistake

  • The audience will not usually be aware of your error unless you point it out
  • They also understand that presenting can be nerve-wracking
  • They are on your side, pulling for you to do a good job, they want you to succeed so that it will not be a waste of their time

11. Know your stuff

  • Do thorough research on your topic, the audience and the meeting/occasion 
  • Use the appropriate language and avoid jargon 
  • Know when to stop talking

“Grasp the subject, the words will follow." - Cato The Elder (Roman statesman)

12. Learn the skill

  • The ability to give excellent presentations is not a talent; it is a skill that you can develop through training 
  • Take public speaking classes or one-on-one coaching to learn the ropes.
  • As you boost your competence you will build your confidence

13. Structure your talk

  • Stick to two or three main points; nerves have a way of making us talk too much
  • Have a structure in advance of how you will move smoothly through your presentation - from the opening, to the main body, to closing
  • You must be totally clear in your own mind about the message you wish to convey, before you try communicating it to others

14. Believe in yourself

  • No one apart from yourself is stopping you from being bold, brave and confident
  • Believing that you will deliver an effective presentation increases the chances that you will
  • Let any thoughts of previous failures act as the motivation to succeed next time

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” -Dale Carnegie

Copyright© Caroline Nderitu-Benjamin, Public Speaking Coach – Nairobi, Kenya. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission from the author.