What they say about nerves …

How do you feel about public speaking? You’re not alone!

All my Confident Public Speaking courses begin by asking delegates how they think and feel about standing up to speak in front of an audience. And time after time I hear variations on the same themes. You’re not alone – these are some of the most common responses, plus a few words of advice:

“Dread .. scary … pressure .. am I ready … “

We can be our own worst enemies, mentally playing worst case scenarios and that self-sabotaging little internal voice before we’ve even begun to prepare.

Did you know the same things are happening inside when we’re excited as when we’re nervous? We just learn to label them differently.

So let those negative thoughts and words go, and replace them with positive encouragement instead. You’re excited, energised and eager to take this great opportunity, and you’re going to plan and prepare to succeed.

“Fumbling over my words …”

Nerves can interfere with clear thinking and speaking.

All actors and athletes know that practice and warm-ups are essential for a good performance.

Warming up your voice with a few tongue twisters, calm breathing and practicing your first words in private will help keep your speech fluent and clear.

“Might forget words … blank mind … forgetting it ALL …”

No need to try to memorise your speech – you’re not about to play Hamlet, and it’s OK to refer to speaking notes.

Unless you’ve developed great sight-reading skills, reading it all out word for word is unlikely to work.

So take the middle option – when you’ve written your speech, cut it down to keywords and bullet points and put them into A6 note cards on a keyring that you can flip over easily as you go.

You’ll be able to glance at them and they’ll jog your memory, help you cover your key points and keep you on track.

“People laughing at me … make a fool out of myself … red face … shame …”

Fear of ridicule and losing face can be strong, and of course your reputation matters.

But do remember that most people are nice. They generally want to be there and they’re interested in what you have to say. If you’ve done your homework and found out about them, you’ll be able to answer their needs and keep them interested.

“Disaster …”

If you’ve planned and prepared with care, practiced your speech and your answers to possible questions, and learned a few techniques for developing your professional voice, you’ll get your message across with style.

Confident public speaking isn’t a natural skill, and you really can learn some simple techniques to improve your personal impact.

Philippa Hammond