Let’s get something straight. Anyone who says they never feel nervous when speaking in public is probably stretching the truth.
Mark Twain said: “There are two types of speakers in the world. The nervous and the liars.”
When it comes to public speaking on Zoom or in person, even experienced public speakers get butterflies in their stomachs. Your nervous system is going to be pumped up when it’s your turn to speak. It’s a natural reaction to performance anxiety and fear of failure. But you can turn put that nervous energy to work to animate your delivery.
Sports psychologist Rob Gilbert used it to train elite athletes. He said: “It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.”
Here are three tips to help you control the jitters when you are in the spotlight:
1. Turn nervous into service.
Harness the nervous energy and use it to propel you to better performance. Consider it like an adrenaline rush that pumps you up and sharpens the edges of your performance. Take the focus away from you and put it on your audience. Think about the value of what you are sharing and how it will help the people you are there to serve. You may notice a big difference in your mental state. (Thanks to Dave Bricker for inspiring the phrase, Turn nervous into service.)
2. Breathe deeply.
We all do it, but not always the right way. Stressed breathing makes it difficult to sound confident. When the butterflies get the best of you, your chest constricts, and your vocal cords tense up. You start to breathe shallower. Be aware and take deep measured breaths from your diaphragm. Stand up or sit up straight so you can get more air in your lungs.
3. Take more pauses.
Our nerves push us to get it over with. We rush our words and forget to take a delicious pause to breathe, gauge the audience, and vary the rhythm of our delivery. Make your sentences shorter so you don’t have to gasp for air. Use pauses for transitions, dramatic effect and to draw attention back to your message.
Use nervousness to step into your personal power. Don’t let it stop you from sharing the best you have to offer with your audience. Learn to love your butterflies and make them your friends. Train them to fly in formation and you will be on your way to becoming an exceptional speaker on any stage.