Being nervous before speaking is totally natural – it shows you care about what you’re about to say and/or who you’re going to speak to. But when you feel the nerves getting out of hand it can be useful to have a few techniques to help minimise them. Here’s our pick …
1. Make it all about the audience
Too many speakers think that public speaking is about them when the most important people in the room are in the audience.
When you’re writing your speech, think about what they need. When you’re rehearsing your speech, think about how you’re going to reach everyone in the room. When you’re giving your speech, engage with the people in front of you.
Not only will this make you a better speaker (you’ll be giving the audience more of what they want) but if you do it enough, it’ll get you out of your own head and this will take some of the pressure off you.
2. Breathe and visualise
Close your eyes, take deep breaths in and out and imagine yourself in the venue, giving your speech. Imagine yourself engaging with the audience and the speech going really well.
Some people find visualisation really helpful – it puts them in the right frame of mind for giving the speech on the day.
3. Prepare for things to go wrong
What’s the worst that could happen when you’re giving your speech? Maybe you mess up and have to check your notes?
This really wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Write and rehearse a couple of self-deprecating jokes that you could use if this were to happen. For example “please bear with me, this went a lot better in the mirror this morning”.
Knowing that you have some little joke to deploy if you do slip up will help ease your nerves.
4. Practice in front of friends
Grab a couple of friends and ask them to be your test audience. Delivering the speech out loud in front of people, even if it’s a much smaller group, will make it that much easier on the day itself.
5. Channel your nervous energy into movement
If you find your hands shaking, gesture. If you find yourself shuffling around, walk up and down the stage.
Deliberate movement uses up your adrenaline.
If channel your nervous energy in this way, you’ll not only ease your nerves but engage your audience through a more dynamic delivery.