Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Nuke those nerves!

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, ‘if it’s true that more people fear public speaking than dying, then most of the people at a funeral would rather be in the box than giving the eulogy’.  Psychology Today   suggests that ‘activating your inner kid can kill public speaking jitters’.   And have a look at this video of a young Steve Jobs – plainly nervous before a  TV appearance.

We ALL know speaking is stressful. It’s called glossophobia and it’s basically a fear of making embarrassing mistakes –  going blank, trembling, messing up your words, or drying up.  It’s a misplaced fear because very few audiences are in fact hoping you’ll fall flat on your face, fumble your words, or find you’ve forgotten to do up your fly. They are almost entirely supportive, and very forgiving. They want you to succeed.

The trouble is, your body responds to stresses like speeches, first dates, and the sight of the police in the rear view mirror, in exactly the same way. It senses danger. You get ready for fight or flight.

As as Scott Berkun explains in  Confessions of a Public Speaker – you’re just  a mammal.  As mammals, we have an ancient, well founded fear of standing all alone and unprotected in front of a bunch of other mammals. When this happens, our deepest instincts tell us those other mammals are likely to be thinking “DINNER!”  So when you get up in front of a crowd, and you have many eyes upon you and nowhere to hide, your brain says  ‘…this could be DANGEROUS…..you need to GET AWAY …’ and  it helpfully floods you with adrenalin to make your exit a speedy one.

Depending on your personality, this can be exhilarating.  You might feel all fired up by the rush.  Or your palms sweat, your throat croaks, your knees go to jelly and your heart pounds.   Afterwards, you probably suffer an  ‘adrenalin hangover’, and feel exhausted and as drained as anyone does after an ordeal.

The rush of nerves is just like death and taxes – inevitable. There are only two things you can do: accept  it and manage  it .  If you realise that it’s normal to be nervous you will spare yourself a lot of trouble.

You will manage your speech  better if you know some techniques to help you out when the nervousness strikes, and if you practise over and over so you get comfortable.  Have a look at  the advice in this post , and  this one  and choose the techniques that will work for you.  And  take heart – later in life, Steve  Jobs was legendary for the quality and brilliance of his public speaking.


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