Virtually all speakers
get nervous before an important presentation...butterflies, trembling,
voice quavers (like Mr. Haney on Green Acres), shortness of breath,
sweaty palms, pacing/rocking, pocket-change-jingling, and so forth.
At a recent presentation to 300 strangers in San Diego, I started off
by reading from a sheet of paper and immediately discovered that my
hands were trembling. Solution? Calmly lay the paper on the speaker's
table and keep going...nobody will know!
arises from one of four sources, as discussed in The Speaker article
elsewhere on this site. There are a number of techniques you can use
to control your nervousness, though the best one is just getting more
and more experience until the speaking situation becomes more natural.
Even so, you will
most likely continue to experience some nervousness throughout your
career. Here are four things you can do, following an F.E.A.R. acronym:
in your message and be enthused about the opportunity to present it.
Don't anticipate the worst and go into it with the attitude that you
just want to get it over with. Try things like breathing exercises,
having a Hershey bar (one speaker swears by the soothing effect of chocolate!),
expending nervous energy by taking a quick walk, etc. Also, NEVER apologize
for being nervous or inexperienced...unless you tell your audience,
they will probably not know you're nervous.
early, walk around and view the room for the audience's perspective
and from where you will be standing. Make sure the set-up is to your
satisfaction. Take control of the temperature, lights, noise, and other
environmental factors...it's YOUR show!
what they expect of you. Do you know? Do you know what every audience
expects? The answer is simple: something-anything-of value! It's amazing
how often most speakers fail to deliver on that simple demand. Also,
keep this in mind: the audience is on YOUR side. Have you ever gone
to a presentation hoping the speaker would be terrible? Of course not.
have to admit, I'm bad about this. Some speakers swear by videotaping
their practice sessions or speaking before a mirror. That's never worked
for me, but I wouldn't discourage you from trying it since I may be
an exception to the rule. The most important thing, though, is to know
your material...preparation, preparation, preparation. You can probably
reduce your nervousness by 75% just by being confident in your knowledge
of the subject matter and the general outline of your presentation.
And, while you're rehearsing, visualize success...imagine an attentive
audience, rousing applause, and throngs of people coming to you with
questions after you're through. It really works.
1999-2000 by William C. Wilson, Jr.
All Rights Reserved.