How to combat speaking anxiety
As a speaking coach - it is automatically assumed that I don't get nervous. I mean, surely I should be as cool as a cucumber right? Why would someone who does this all the time get nervous?
Anxiety stems from the bodies natural defence system
What happens to our body?
It is important to recognise that anxiety is an important emotional state. Anxiety our bodies way of preparing us for danger, letting us know that we should be wary... and of course you should. Public speaking is a truly vulnerable exercise. We bare our selves for all to see. Many public figures suffer from this fear, more formally known as glossophobia. Singer Adele admitted she has been physically sick before going on stage. Hopefully she pays her stage crew well...
Public speaking is the No. 2 phobia in both the U.K. and the U.S., with 75% of adults have you heard the Jerry Seinfeld joke about preferring to be in the casket, than giving the eulogy? Goes to show how keen the majority are to go up and show ourselves in front of people.
Back in 2016 I did a TEDx talk, and you can see quite clearly I was having a physical response to anxiety in the video. A combination of 7 coffees, and at the time an unknown surge of pregnancy hormones meant that I was receiving symptoms of shaking, perspiration, and pulse rate.
Tame your adrenaline response
A client recently said "it's relieving to see that even you get nervous!" I didn't mention the pregnancy hormones...
The human body is a very clever thing, but that level of adrenaline and angst can cause the best public speakers to freeze under the spotlight. What can we do? Will you always be this way?
Panic not, you can eliminate the fear reaction - but there isn't an overnight fix for it. You just need to get into practise of using your adrenaline hit the right way.
4 steps to get you started
1) Deep breaths. You've heard it before, but did you do it? Breathe in through the nose for a count of three, and then release a slow breathe through your mouth on a 'f' sound for as long as you can.
Why does it work? Your heart rate will steady with a regular breathing pattern. If you are nervous the likelihood is that you are holding your breath and creating tension in your shoulders. A regular slow breath pattern will help oxygen circulate the body and get the blood flowing again. Adrenaline will have diverted your blood flow to your internal organs as a safety mechanism.
2) Wrap your arms around your self.
Essentially - give yourself a hug. This tells the bloody to go back into your arms and legs, again - putting the adrenaline back in it's box. Squeezing the capillaries gets the blood moving again and tells your body that you are safe. Hugs really do ease angst.
3) Think of one person.
You might be in a meeting, delivering a key note or speaking to a new client... think of one person that you love talking to, and would be interested in what you have to say. Who makes you smile? Who makes you feel safe? Visualise them and only them.
4) Remember to help the audience
You are there for one reason, and for one reason only. You can help someone in the room achieve something that they cannot. they need to do something, create, achieve, build, SOMETHING. What you know, is going to help them do that. Your job is to guide them. Think about their problem, their pain point... and only think about how you will help them achieve their challenge. You are the mentor, the guide... the story isn't about you - it's about them. Think of that, and you'll deliver outstanding value.
The key is to calm your body and the natural response to fear. The more you do the first three steps, the more you will create a calm 'muscle memory'. The body remembers and in time, so will you.
Good luck, breath deep - and nail that meeting.
If you would like to practice these skills, you can join in my bi monthly speaking class Speakbox where are learn, practice and evolve leadership skills.