The first step to managing your nerves

What are the thoughts that cross your mind before you speak in public?

"I am not ready. I will embarrass myself. I will go blank. I will become the laughing stock. I will forget my lines. I am not as good as so-and-so. I am shy"

Has it occurred to you yet how much “I” dominates these pre-presentation thoughts? Well, therein lies our answer.

The first step to managing your nerves is: Make it about something else other than you! Stop thinking about yourself and instead think about how you can be of assistance to others. Public Speaking is not about you.

"What is it about then?" you ask.

Public Speaking is about “playing” a role. Yes! Playing, in as, acting! In the same was you have an “acting MD or Chair.” What this implies is that we all understand that public speaking is not your day job and therefore are not expecting magic. What we are expecting is that you will play your role, and keep your insecurities inside. That is exactly why they are called INsecurities. Your nervousness is an internal struggle, private challenge. Keep it that way. Feel nervous, but speak anyway.

Again, stop making it about you, play your role - ACT. Act credible. Act confident. Act competent.

Stop making it about you, play your role – ANSWER. What have you been asked? Do it and take your seat. Tell us …

  • Who you are and what you do, so that we know what to call you and when to call upon you – be loud enough, and look at us
  • The current state of affairs, so that we can make the necessary decisions – do not rush and mumble
  • What you have to offer, so that we can weigh the value – be authentic and stop apologizing

Keep thinking in this direction …

How can I make it about other people? What would they like to hear? Why did they come here today? What would excite them? What do they have time for?

i reiterate, Public Speaking is not about you. We are not expecting magic, just the bare minimum - just the information that you’ve been asked to provide.

However, if you do want pizzazz, panache, punch…. Then you must learn the skill! Public Speaking is not a gift or talent, it is a professional skill that can be learned and honed to near-perfection.

In closing, you have two options:

  1. Just play your role: Anyone can speak in Public. Just keep is short and have faith in the audience. Your esteemed listeners have not walked/driven/flown several kilometers to watch you fail, that would be be a waste of their time. They want you to succeed. On the public speaking scale you may be a 2-4 (out of a possible 10). Take heart, you are in the territory of the majority. Why is that a great consolation? The people you are speaking to are NOT great public speakers either.
  2. Speak like a professional: You will never become a professional speaker unless you get professional training from a trained professional. Work at it and it will work for you!

In the interim, it is better to have spoken and lost, than never to have spoken all! Get up there!

Copyright © Caroline Nderitu, 2017

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