Get Rid of the Jitters Before a Speech
There is a lot of bad advice out there when it comes to getting rid of the jitters in the hours and minutes before a speech. Most of it is awful. Picture everyone naked? What an absolute sadistic thought is that? What if your mom has come to watch you give a speech? What if there are children there? That’s basically a felony!
Sorry. Too far? Okay. You may not know it to meet me, but I have horrible jitters before speaking in public and it literally has been my job for more than a decade. I have tried everything from the simple (deep breaths) to the absurd (you don’t wanna know). I have found there are ten techniques that really work for me. I hope they work for you too.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Don’t think about Kim Kardashian right now.
You just did, didn’t you?
By trying to ignore your jitters you are just going to make them worse. You need to say aloud “I have the jitters.” Scream it even! Think of your jitters as deer standing on your lawn. The more you notice them, the more they are ready to flee.
Inhabit the Space
A lot of the nervous feelings come from not knowing where you are going to be giving your speech, and what equipment you will be using. The best way to fix this is to get to know the space before you speak. If possible do a trial run of your presentation. Make sure the microphone and other technology works. Check out your sight lines and find focal points in the audience.
There will be times though that you aren’t able to check out the space beforehand. In that case look it up online. Look at the specs and the acoustics. Read reviews. Find out what other speakers have said about it. If you need to, send an email to the venue manager with questions.
Do whatever you can to make sure you are not going into a totally unknown space.
Breathe – But Not Too Much
Deep breaths can be a wonderful thing. Hyperventilation – not so much. Try breathing in for a count of 10, holding it for 10, and then breathing out for a count of 15. Do five breaths like this and then breathe normally for a few minutes. Keep repeating the cycle until you feel calmer.
Pace – But Don’t Work Out
You will see all kinds of advice involving deep knee bends, and stretching, and running a 5k in heels before a speech. I feel like that’s a little bit of overkill. You want to save your energy for your time in the spotlight. If you are feeling your nerves in your body, work them out just with a gentle stride, swinging your arms in front of your body. That way you are getting the blood moving, but you won’t look sweaty when you hit the stage, and you will have plenty of fuel in the tank for your performance.
There is no such thing as being too prepared. Take the time to focus on your speech and go over the finer details. Think about how you are going move on the stage. Think about the points you really want to drive home. Picture the best possible outcome for your performance.
Face Your Worst Critic
Take a minute to listen to the little, critical voice in your head. Give it the microphone. And then? Show it how ridiculous it is. If it says you’re going to stutter, tell it you’re going to start vomiting toads. If it says people won’t be interested, tell it that most of them may die of boredom in the first few minutes. By taking your fears to their absurd conclusions you’ll see just how unrealistic they are in the first place.
I have Candy Crush on my phone for one reason: to turn my brain off when I need to. This is especially true before an appearance and probably why I’m on level 4371. I used to knit, but I ran out of people who needed scarves.
When you have the jitters it is largely because of your primitive or “lizard” brain. That’s where the fight or flight instinct lives. Luckily though, it is very easily distracted. Give it something else to gnaw on with a basic task. It’s like giving a hyperactive dog a shoe. It won’t bother you anymore.
You would never know it, but comedian Steve Martin had horrible stage fright at the beginning of his career. His secret weapon? Faking confidence.
“Because I thought it was important that [the audience] sensed I believed. If I was the slightest bit nervous about something, they could smell it, and then they would become judges,” Martin said. “But if I was confident, it’s like ‘I don’t care what you think.’ That worked.”
Pretend to be Steve Martin. Let the fake confidence ooze off you. Just leave the banjo and white suit at home.
The feeling of being nervous is almost electric. Use that feeling to light up your performance. Hold it tight and then let it explode the moment you step into the spotlight. Ride that energy all the way until you walk off to thunderous applause.
There is nothing unusual about being nervous before a speech. Every speaker is. To get past it they have a toolbox of techniques to deal with it. Now is the time to put yours together. Use these methods, and then build on them depending on how well they work. I DON’T LIKE THIS…KIND OF A LETDOWN…
There is nothing unusual about being nervous before a speech. Every speaker feels the same. To get past it, however, many have a toolbox of techniques to use. Now is the time to put yours together. Give these methods a try, then build on them according to your own needs.
You got this.