No one is born with a fear of public speaking; it is something we learn, so we can equally learn to quash the debilitating nerves and harness the good nerves that give us positive energy and presence on stage. To achieve this, Lyn Roseaman of Toastmasters International suggests we need to reprogramme our mindset and make friends with our nerves:
- Examine your excuses
- Don’t expect perfection from yourself
Give yourself permission to be less than perfect. Set yourself challenging, yet achievable, standards and give yourself a pat on the back when you’ve spoken. Focus on what you did well, and note ways in which you can be even better next time. Great speeches are an iterative process of crafting and honing content, practising delivery and seeking feedback.
- Persuade your brain to work with you
As public speakers who are stressed or nervous, our Chimp will always react first; going into fight, flight or freeze mode. This is normal, but it is not what you need for a strong performance and quick thinking.
One solution is to programme your brain with positive speaking associations: In any public-speaking environment, arrive early; familiarise yourself with the speaking area so that you feel comfortable; introduce yourself to members of the audience, so you see friendly faces from the stage; register the applause; give yourself a pat on the back for a speech well delivered. Once you are more comfortable and your Chimp is no longer in control, your ability to reason and think on your feet will grow, while your Chimp will help bring energy and enthusiasm to your speech.
- Expect to be nervous and make it work for you
Before the adrenaline kicks in, give yourself the pre-match pep talk – I’m ready, this is going to be fun, etc. Once the adrenaline surges, we need to make it help us. Some people find it helpful to move, run on the spot, jump up and down. Breathe slowly and deeply. Take to the stage and pause. Take a deep breath. Start to connect with your audience with your attention-grabbing opening. After your speech, enjoy the surge of wellbeing you get from success.
Reprogramming your mindset won’t happen overnight, but continuous speaking practice and a permanent (post-it) ‘note to self’ about connection (not perfection), your new friends in the audience will set you on the road to more enjoyable speaking experiences.
ABOUT LYN ROSEAMAN
Lyn Roseaman is from Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.