[Illustration by Ryan Foland]
There is nothing wrong with being soft spoken, unless part of your job includes speaking to people. And since most people speak as part of their job, being soft spoken might work against you. In the privacy of your dimly lit office, your fingers dance across the keyboard, and you have no problem expressing yourself. You love what you do, but when the time comes to give a presentation to a group, the anxiety hits you like a freight train. You are great at communicating complex ideas one on one, but maybe you are not as good in front of large groups.
If you get nervous even thinking about public speaking, you are not alone.
Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is one of the most common fears out there. Research has found that three out of four people, or 75% of individuals—including extroverts—suffer from speech anxiety. Globally, it is estimated that up to five percent of the world’s population—hundreds of millions out of a few billion people—suffer from the fear of speaking in any given year. Sometimes the idea of having to speak in public makes you feel like you are being chased by a bear. I know the feeling.
Yet even if you fight your fears and master the courage to give the best presentation—trying to hide your anxiety—your body might be telling the audience a different story.
When you get on stage, though you may think you’re standing still, your nervous energy might be traveling down your legs, to your feet, or even to your fingers.
Are you balancing on one heel?
Are you swaying?
Is your left leg shaking?
Are your hands shaking?
What are your fingers doing?
Are you pacing back and forth?
Are you fidgeting with the clicker?
All these movements communicate your nervousness. If you realize these things are happening when you are on stage, it may cause even more anxiety, which makes you even more nervous.
[Illustration by Ryan Foland]
There Is a Simple Solution!
I learned an awesome trick from my good friend Daniel Midson-Short, a professional speaker who has competed in the World Championships of Public Speaking more than once. He taught me how to get rid of nervousness before speaking, and I am now going to teach you! Tip one: before you go on stage, let the nervous energy flow through you.
The trick is to imagine your energy as a wave moving inside of you. Move your arms and legs freely and roll all of your energy through your limbs and neck. Wiggle around and get that energy out! The main thing is not to fight it or hide it. Be aware and accept the fear and anxiety that you feel, and let it flow through you before you go on stage. By doing this, you get your nervous energy out of your body, allowing you to be calm when it is your time to give the presentation.
To make it easy, here is the step by step guide to the “Pre-Stage-Sway.”
Warning: You will probably be embarrassed by these following steps. But follow them and you will conquer your nervous energy and reduce your anxiety about speaking.
Go where no one can see you. Literally, go outside, go to the bathroom or anywhere away from people.
Take your jacket or extra clothing off. You will be moving around in uncomfortable positions. Removing any unneeded materials will help release the stored up energy.
Take Deep Breaths
Take a deep breath, and when your lungs are full of air, hold it for three seconds. Then let all the air out slowly until nothing is left. Then again hold it for three seconds. Do this at least three times. It helps to oxygenate your blood, and it calms your nerves. Notice how relaxed you are after these simple three breathes.
Start Moving. Wriggle in funky positions. Shake your arms, move your hips, move your head sideways. If anyone saw you, you should be embarrassed. Pretend like you are doing the craziest dance ever. Don’t forget to smile while you do it. It is okay to laugh at yourself. Do this for a minimum of 15 seconds.
Stretch It Out
Do you feel tingling in your limbs? You should. Congratulations, you are processing all of your nervous energy. Now it is time to calm down. You should feel more relaxed now that you have flushed out a crazy amount of nervous energy from your body. It is time to unwind and stretch out your muscles so that they can be filled with new and relaxed blood flow. Stretch your arms over your head, stretch to the side, stretch your knees. Do whatever feels good to your body.
There you have it.
Do you feel better now? Less anxious? I know you do!
Perform this ritual before you go on stage or before your next boardroom presentation and you will notice a big difference in your nervousness levels.
And you won’t pace around or fidget as much.
By mastering simple communication hacks like this, you can communicate more confidently, more often. If you are interested in learning more about how you can communicate your personal brand to the world without anxiety, check out InfluenceTree.