Ten tips for dealing with public speaking nerves

‘How will I cope with nerves?’ is the number one public speaking worry. Practical tips to help you feel and speak better.

‘How will I cope with nerves?’ is the number one public speaking worry. Practical tips to help you feel and speak better.

1 Think positive.
It’s natural to be nervous. Always think positively – start thinking ‘I’m really excited ‘ instead of ‘I’m so nervous’, and remember you’ve been invited perhaps because you’ve done something extraordinary, you know something they need to know, you have something to give them because of your experience and achievement, and they’re there because they want to hear you.

2 Think inspirations.
You’re there to inspire them, so you need to inspire yourself first. Keep inspirational photos and quotations in your phone to look at when you’re feeling unsure.

3 Think preparation.
Do your homework, think about your audience and speak to their needs throughout. If you can answer their ‘what’s in it for me’ question, they’re interested. It’s really about them, not you.

4 Think rehearsal.
Rehearsing out loud, on your feet and with any visual aids you’ll be using helps you get familiar with it all. Hearing it in your own voice may then inspire you to improve the script – always go for clear, plain conversational English, and they’ll stay interested.

5 Think drink.
No alcohol! You may think you’ll speak better after a drink, but no – you won’t. Coffee and sugar can give you the shakes, and milky drinks can affect your voice. So keep it simple with plenty of water instead, plus a good night’s sleep and some breakfast for energy and calm.

6 Think checklists.
Have you got your glasses, memory stick, notes, brochures, business cards … ? Check and check again …and relax.

7 Think early.
Go in early and practice – do a tech rehearsal and get familiar with how to use a mic or PowerPoint, and generally get the feel and the sound of the room by trying out a bit of your speech. Familiarity builds confidence.

8 Think breathing.
Controlling your breathing will help you feel calm, slow you down if you tend to gabble, and give you the energy you need to speak. Relax your shoulders, stand up comfortably straight and breathe slowly and deeply from your diaphragm, at the base of your ribcage.

9 Think eye contact.
Make eye contact with them – speaking’s a social interaction, and helps us like each other.

10 Think body language.
Natural unforced smiles and poised, relaxed posture look and feel good, and help them warm to you.

Yes, you’ll feel nervous while you’re waiting and as you start, but it will get better once you get going. All this preparation will help you feel more confident and improve your personal impact as you stand up to speak.

Enjoy Speaking Well In Public!

Philippa Hammond