Readers always write:
Do you ever get nervous when you speak?
Susi in Montgomery, Alabama
Thanks for your interest in speaking, particularly the pesky issue of nerves.
Of course, preparation and practice can help a presenter be less nervous. That’s why I’m amazed at how few speakers actually rehearse their presentations.
Perhaps these speakers prefer to feel a little edgy at curtain time. Such speakers subscribe to the Yerkes-Dodson law, which demonstrates an empirical relationship between arousal and performance. Yes, I’m still referring to speaking.
It’s true that a certain amount of nervousness and anxiety can be beneficial, but a debilitating sense of nervousness is uncomfortable for the speaker and also the audience. People don’t want to be in the room when a presenter is falling apart, especially if they paid to get in. So, it’s a good idea not to “tell” the audience that you’re in distress.
In poker, a “tell” is a physical gesture from a card player that indicates what the player is thinking. The gesture can be a twitch or sip of water or a stroke of the chin. Never “tell” the audience that you’re nervous. Make them figure it out.
I don’t get nervous anymore, but my best advice to quell a case of the nerves, is to distract yourself by showing interest in your guests. Circulate the room just before your presentation. Ask people easy questions about your subject matter and you will forget you are nervous. It’s impossible to worry about yourself when you are showing interest in others. Working the room is a great habit, anyway.
Here’s another trick for calming your nerves. Try lightly touching your thumb to the middle finger of the same hand. Many people find comfort in performing this yoga-like position. Try it during your next presentation.
For more information on how to quell nerves and otherwise sharpen your presentation, have a look at my Present Like a Pro DVD.
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