Public Speaker Challenges: Attack Of The Nerves!

Before You Pull The Alarm, Find Out What's Causing You To Panic
Before You Pull The Alarm, Find Out What’s Causing You To Panic

All that I’m asking for is some simple rules that would govern our lives. Among these rules would this little gem: I’ve got no problem having to deal with being nervous as a beginning speaker; however, once I’ve been speaking for a while I should no longer have any problems with nerves. Dang it – it turns out that these rules don’t exist and speakers can have panic attacks at any time no matter how much experience they have…

Where Does The Panic Come From?

When you’ve never felt a sense of panic before (or if it’s been a really, really long time since you felt it), then the first question that will pop into your mind when panic arrives is “What’s causing this?” As with all such things in life, the answer is probably somewhat complicated.

If you don’t normally have to deal with a case of the nerves when you are either preparing or actually giving a speech, then clearly something has changed. You need to take the time to search your environment in order to identify what’s different.

There are a number of common causes that make experienced speakers nervous. Who’s in your audience is one of them. More often than not, when you have someone that you know in the audience you can start to become jittery. This can include family members, friends, or even just people that you respect.

If you are having your speech recorded in some manner (either sound or video or both), then the need to be perfect can cause you problems. It’s not that the recording is that big of a deal, it’s just that it may be a different environment from what you are normally used to.

Finally, someone asked you to stand up and give a speech. You want to do a good job for them. The more important that your speech is for them and their career, the more pressure that there will be on you and the higher the probability that you’ll experience some level of panic.

How To Deal With Nerves

Understanding why you are dealing with a sudden case of the nerves is a good first start. Now you need to find a way to make them go away. The good news here is that this is possible and it’s really not all that hard to do.

Let’s cover the basics first: what not to do. Skip the caffeine. No matter how you get your drug of choice whether it’s from coffee or soda, just say no on the day that you’ll be speaking. Skip the milk. Same thing goes for dairy products because they can leave a coating on your mouth and throat that you don’t need to be dealing with. Finally, do I even have to tell you to stay away from alcohol (for obvious reasons)?

Since there is no way to tell what kind of shape your throat is going to be in before you give a speech and since becoming panicky can cause your throat to dry out, bring some throat lozenges along and pop them as needed. Couple this with some deep breathing exercises and you will be on your way to regaining control over your nerves.

Nerves have a lot to do with nervous energy. If you can cause this energy to go away, you’ll have less energy to be nervous with. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to perform some stretching exercises. I’m not talking about jumping jacks here, but rather leg and arm extensions that will stretch you out.

Finally, you need to turn that room full of strangers into a room full of people that you know. The fastest way to do this is to take the time to meet as many people as possible before you get up and give your speech. Shaking their hand, introducing yourself, and finding out a little bit about them will win them over to your side before you even open your mouth.

What All Of This Means For You

No matter how comfortable you are standing in front of an audience, there is always the possibility that at some point in time you’ll have to deal with a case of the nerves. The good news is that this can be a temporary situation.

When this happens, the first thing that you need to do is to take the time to understand what is causing it. Next, you need to focus on taking actions that will allow you to relieve the stress that you are feeling.

Sometimes the best realization is that panic attacks are temporary things – they won’t last. As speakers we need to realize that we are providing a service for our audiences and this is why we go through the effort of creating and delivering speeches. Focus on this and all of your temporary fears will melt away…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you feel a panic attack coming on, what do you think is the one thing that you can do to regain control?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Why do you give speeches? I suspect that like most of us, the reasons vary; however, there is probably a common thread running through most of them – you want to lead your audience to take some form of action. In order to convince our audiences to follow us, we need to use words that will show them that we are leaders. Do you know how to do this?