I get so nervous, how do you stop getting nervous!?
This is THE most popular question I am asked when I teach speaking or communication classes. The simple answer I always give is “you don’t”. Whenever delivering something to an audience there is always a jangle of nerves when you are about to head onto a stage, or to the front of the room and it’s not about not getting nervous, it is about accepting and using those nerves.
I am a radio DJ, singer and trainer and I still get nervous to varying degrees depending on what I am doing. I no longer get nervous when I deliver a radio program, because by now I have delivered 1000’s of hours of live radio, but at first I did. Other things however to this day still make me nervous, for instance when I am delivering a training class I get a very low dose of nervous excitement, I think I am not so nervous in this situation because my content is prepared well in advance, it is on the screen behind me and I am confident in what I am delivering.
Slightly more nerve racking is speaking in front of people, maybe at a gala, or as a guest speaker, because all eyes are on you and the audience has an expectation, be it to be entertained or informed and if I have no prompts and I am doing it from memory, I tend to be slightly more nervous than delivering training. I am most nervous however when I take to the stage with my band. As a singer, putting your self out there on a stage, in front of an audience with a band whose knowledge, or mistakes I can’t control makes me very nervous. In fact the first time I went on stage to do my first ever gig, I was so nervous that I was certain that when I had to sing that first line, that the words wouldn’t come out! Thankfully they did but for the first song my legs were shaking so much that I could actually hear my voice wobble! By the second or third song though, I was much more relaxed.
Now, I use my nerves to good effect and any nerves are normally that of nervous excitement. You too can use that nervous energy in a different way to help you feel more confident, here’s 3 key things that you should know to help you deal with nerves:
1. Preparation will help calm nerves
There is no substitute for being prepared, know your speech, or material and points, prepare days in advance and tweak your speech or material until you are confident in it. Know your audience and write your material accordingly, prepare so much that you do not have to read your lines verbatim and can get through using only bulleted prompts.
2. You can actually fake confidence!
You never need to admit to your audience that you are nervous, in fact unless you are a gibbering wreck, I guarantee you that no one will notice if you are or not, so just pretend that you are. It honestly is as simple as that, visualize a confident state, stand tall and trust your preparation.
3. You must remember to breathe
For the first few years of delivering training or talking, I wasn’t so nervous to start with, but as the speech went on I found myself getting more and more nervous and anxious, I could feel my chest and throat tighten and my pulse raise. It wasn’t that I was getting more nervous; it was because I wasn’t breathing! This creates a kind of panic state in your body, your speaking will speed up, your pitch will elevate and your breathing become more and more shallow and unless you remember to breathe and slow down, you will almost certainly get to a point where you have to stop – remember, just breathe!
Speaking can be nerve racking – accepting that it is can be empowering. Use those nerves to help you prepare, use them to help you get excited and redirected into faking a confident state, the only real cure for nerves is to get out in front of people and do it, the more you practice the more you speak, the less nervous you will become over time, just remember the key points above and it will help!