Eleven Easy-To-Use Steps To Controlling Your Nervousness When Presenting To Any Audience.
By Pauline Shirley, Leaders on Fire

Article first published in Builder/Architect magazine

“The brain is a wondrous thing. It starts working the moment we are born, and it doesn’t stop until… we stand up to speak.” -- Anonymous.

Does this sound familiar? You are in the spotlight in front of a client or potential client. This is your chance to shine. You have this unique opportunity to close a deal, make an important connection or highlight your company/product, as it deserves. And what happens? Your mouth gets dry, your palms sweat and those glorious words you know so well seem to stick like peanut butter in the roof of your mouth, somewhere between your brain and your tongue. You are encountering the fear of public speaking. Which, according to the Book of Lists, is the number one fear most people experience and admit to.

Fear can be a terrible thing! It de-motivates, paralyzes and stifles people’s capacity to perform and excel. Vast numbers of people admit they are stricken with fear when they are expected to give a report at a meeting or deliver a briefing or presentation to a group -- regardless of the purpose. That’s the bad news. The good news is you can overcome it.

1. Confront The Fear: Anyone who experiences anxiety at the thought of giving a speech can consider himself in good company. Acknowledging you are fearful, confronting the fear, and delivering those speeches anyway are the only means of conquering it. Remember! Once you have conquered the number one fear, you can do anything!

2. Control The Fear: The right attitude - which is a positive attitude - helps to control your fear. Convince yourself you will survive, because you will. History has proven that no one has succumbed because of this fear. Put yourself in control -- not the fear.

3. Overcome Fear Through Practice: Practice as much as is practicable for your presentation. Be generous with the time you allow for practice. Practice assures you are fully knowledgeable of your topic and are comfortable with your method of delivery. Knowledge of your topic gives you confidence. Knowledge and confidence overcome fear.

4. Visualize: Visualization is an important method of practicing for a presentation. Visualization allows you to practice -- anytime, anywhere, anyplace. While showering, driving, or before falling asleep, deliver your presentation mentally. Envision each word and every nuance, up to and including the desired successful conclusion and results. The visualization process instills the information into your subconscious. Your nervous, conscious mind may forget. Your subconscious mind does not.

5. Your Presentation: You are the authority on your material. It is your topic, your information. You possess the knowledge. Develop the ownership approach. Having ownership of your material eliminates reasons to be nervous. After all, you and only you know all there is to know about what you want to say.

6. Nervous Notes: Prepare your talk fully and if necessary, use a flipchart or overhead transparencies for notes rather than sheets of paper. Often the only obvious form of nervousness shown by an apprehensive speaker is the fluttering of papers that are being held or moved by a “quaking” hand. To be confident, you must appear confident. When you appear confident, you speak with confidence.

7. Calm The Tiger Within: Restless movement or walking is obvious reflections of nervousness. To avoid pacing that distracts the listeners, develop a firm, but not stiff, stance. Plant your feet slightly apart. Place your right foot a couple of inches in front of the left. From that position, make only purposeful movement. After necessary movement, return to your original firm stance.

8. Butterflies In Formation: Nervousness causes fluttery feelings in your stomach – butterflies! An obvious symptom of nervousness, you can teach your butterflies to fly in formation! There is value to some nervousness. Transfer those fluttery feelings into energy. A speaker with energy appeals to the listeners.

9. Eat And Speak: Butterflies caused by nervousness do effect your stomach’s reception to food. If your nervousness does not allow you to eat before you speak and you are speaking at a meal event, determine at what point prior to your speech the butterflies attack. Eat just before that point. Consider eating food high in protein that provides the necessary stamina that gets you through the presentation.

10. Confidence Is Appearance: More than anything else, confidence is appearance. When you appear confident, it stands to reason you are confident. That is what your audience sees anyway. Recognize how to reflect confidence. Dress in clothes that make you feel most confident. Practice “confident” facial expressions. Make comfortable and personable eye contact with the listeners. Touch them lightly with your eyes. Stand erect, hold your head with certainty, and use your hands to influence your audience. All of these build your perceived confidence factor.

11. To Err Is Human, Calling Attention To It Is Not Divine: Even the most confident speaker makes a mistake on occasion, so nervousness is not the only reason we blunder. The biggest error in making a mistake is calling attention to it. More often than not, only you know when you make a mistake. Correct any mistakes that are important to data and facts. Ignore the minor mistakes of using a word different from one you had planned or minor grammatical errors. Continue the flow of your talk as though nothing happened.

Open the doors of opportunity by controlling your fears. The next time you make a presentation to a client, in front of your bosses, or at a meeting, follow these eleven steps and overcome the Number One Fear!

Pauline Shirley, a dynamic, charismatic presenter, speaks, coaches and trains from rich leadership experiences. She is president of Leaders On Fire of Richardson, Texas, whose mission is to prepare emerging leaders for today, tomorrow and the future. She may be reached at 972/644-6430, or you may visit her website at

Copyright © MMV Pauline Shirley

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