Why do we care so much about looking nervous? How easy is it for the audience to detect our nerves? And what can we do to conceal our nervousness?
I believe there are three reasons we are likely to view a fear of public speaking as a big problem.
Nine ways to calm your nerves by connecting with your audience (and imagining your audience naked is not one of them!)
esenting to an audience can feel unnatural. Most people don't like being in the spotlight. It is tempting to become less noticeable by hiding behind a PowerPoint presentation. But that is an unhelpful strategy. We need to do the opposite because connecting with the audience is the key to feeling more comfortable.
I had a conversation recently with a sales manager, Mike. He told me that when he was 18, he lived in Spain for his final year of schooling. He was asked to talk about life in New Zealand at a school assembly. His hand shook uncontrollably as he started to speak. He was holding notes which made this obvious! Then he put up a slide of a cow. I am not sure what he said, but everyone started laughing. And suddenly he felt relaxed!
Most public speaking coaches agree that the old advice to imagine your audience naked is lousy advice! The intent is to make the audience seem less threatening. But instead of treating the audience as hostile or dangerous, we need to connect.
Here are nine things you can try instead.
While researching this topic, I came across a comment in an online forum.
“I put on my first parent seminar this week. I was so terrified I almost cancelled! But I got over myself because I know parents are a bit desperate about how to help their boys and girls build a strong, positive body image (in our weight-obsessed culture).”
I contacted Emma, who was behind this comment. She suffered from an eating order as a child. She now helps parents to ensure their children have a healthy attitude towards eating and body image.
Emma told me that she was making plans to cancel her seminar right up to just before it started! But she went ahead, and it was a huge success. 100% of the attendees signed up to follow her e-course. As she spoke, she felt her nervousness evaporate because she realised people were listening and engaged!
Body language expert Mark Bowden, in his book “Winning Body Language” describes a man who came to him for help because he broke out in hives every time he presented. Mark urged him to accept his fear as the first step forward. Bowden says, “In just about all cases of stage fright, battling the fear is never the answer”.
I get huge satisfaction from seeing the relief, pride, and even joy that people experience when they complete a course and reflect on the progress they have made. See what others say for some inspiring stories.