Your nerves are a positive and essential part of presenting well and staying grounded.
- Reframe Your Nerves as EXCITEMENT
When you think about it, our body does weird and amazing things and we can choose to be un-empowered by them or we can use them constructively. Let me tell you a story about pre-show jitters and dramatic stage fright.
There were two men asked to go up on stage as volunteers. The first, as he leaves the security of his theatre seat feels sweat, constricted breathing, rolling stomach, muscle tremors and a terrifying adrenaline rush that almost makes him loose balance and stumble. When he is up on stage he can hardly interact with the show master, mumbles his name and is a useless helper in the game he is being asked to contribute to. At the end, to add to his humiliation, he his handed a cheap tee shirt. As he walks back to his seat he makes a promise to himself, “I will never come to the theatre EVER again!”
After the interval another man is chosen to “volunteer”. He gets up and feels an exciting rush of adrenaline and thinks that this could be one of those defining moments in his life. He speeds up and rushes towards the stage with a glow of excitement, the panting breathe of anticipation and a feeling of butterflies that reminds him of his tenth birthday. Is this really happening? Has he won the lottery? He leaps on stage, smiles at the performer and adds a joke into his first reply. The crowd go wild with laughter and one or two even clap. He is enjoying himself. The trick runs smoothly and generates more applause. He has never felt so alive and connected to so many people. At the end he enjoys the thanks of the performer, the admiration of the crowd, AND is handed a tee shirt to remember this night for the rest of his life. As he returns to his seat there is a big smile on his face and he says to himself, “I am going to quit my job as an auditor and get BACK on that stage.”
BOTH men had the same physical reaction to the situation. They chose to frame their experiences in different ways. How will you label your body’s reactions when next called to the stage?
- The Audience Want You to Succeed
It is easy to think of yourself entering the lion’s den when speaking on stage. What you may not know is that gladiators were the TV celebrities of their time. The audience would come back week after week to see their favourite fighters… WIN. Your audience have paid money, given up their time and sacrificed the chance to do other, easier things. They are invested in you and want you to WIN. They would love you to be comfortable, to get your patter out and complete you mission without mishap. They are rooting for you. In there minds is something simple – If you WIN then they get a chance to benefit. If you perform well, they get the chance to use your wise words, your experience and your life learning. That is, in fact, why they are there. So, remember, the audience is, very much, on your side.
- Even the Greatest Speakers Experience Stage Fright
It is true. There are many live performers that vomit backstage, have moments of terror and have those self-challenging-thoughts, “What if they find out I am a sham?”, “What if I don’t know the answer to a question?”, “What if someone in the audience is clever and hostile and they want to humiliate me? My professional life will be over.”
This is referred to as Imposter Syndrome and EVERBODY gets it. The truth is that the public speaker possesses a co-constructed identity that is temporary and happens when you are on the stage, red mic light on, in front of a live audience. It is not ALL that you are and you probably don’t do this every day. It is a part of who you are. For the rest of the time you are a much more ordinary figure. And that is OK. Linked to the last point, no one actually expects you to be a superhero (except maybe yourself.) Having doubt keeps you at your best. Hearing those “What if” questions maintains your hunger for perfection and improvement. Doubt keeps you present and grounded. Do not wish away the fear – that is the path to complacency, drift and autopilot delivery.
- Build Your Expert Status From the Inside
The quickest way to get your personal power surging is to write down your “numbers.” By this I mean the figures for what you have achieved so far. Everybody has accomplished more than they are conscious of and this exercise really helps. How many years have you been doing the thing that you are speaking about? How many customers have you helped? Reports have you written? Deals have you negotiated? When you look at your track record and put down the numbers they will impress…you.
As great coaches say, you can achieve less in a day than you wish but more in a month than you expect. Over the years you have achieved an enormous amount in a wide number of areas. Take a moment to write down your life and career highlights and to really, deeply acknowledge just how far you have come, just how much experience you have accumulated and just how much you actually know.
- Affirmations Affirm Your Greatness.
A way of countering the self doubt and unhelpful chatter running through your mind is to build some self affirming mantras that help lay some new mental pathways that, with repetition, will magically turn into self-affirming beliefs. They will be your public speaker truths. The easiest is the ANV – Adjective Noun that Verbs. Take a moment to write down 10 to 30 describing words that are positive, bright and give energy (these are the adjectives). Next you may use positive words to describe your multiple life and professional roles (these are the nouns.) Then form sentences that include who you help, what they achieve and how you help them (this is the verb bit.) And put it all together – “ I, Name Name, am an Adjective, Adjective, Adjective Noun, Noun, Noun & Noun that Verbs, Verbs and Verbs! And I am… AAAWWWEEESSSOOOMMMEEE.
When you learn this formula, fill in the spaces, make it your mantra, and repeat it, you will release the helpful chemicals in your body that support you, the public and professional presenter, speaker and subject matter expert. This allows you to help many more people to overcome their pain and achieve so much more for themselves.
How does that feel?
I have good news for you – You are now Ready!
I hope that these 5 ideas have helped you to reverse your doubts, calm your jitters, and to reframe stage fright as a necessary and useful part of delivering a high impact presentation and an effective public speech.
About the Author – Matthew Hill is a Presentation Coach and Group Soft Skills Trainer – If you wish to contact and engage Matthew to improve your professional presentation performance, then do call him on 07540 65 9995 or send an E Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .