It is common for both experienced speakers to be nervous about giving a speech. Over the years as a professional Master of Ceremonies, I have seen many nervous individuals give speeches, mostly at weddings where the wedding party or parents of the bride and groom had anxiety about speaking in front of guests. Like I said it is common for all speakers. The difference is that experienced speakers know how to control nervousness and understand the causes and symptoms of anxiety.
Allow me to explain, with my own examples, some triggers of anxiety and how to manage the symptoms associated with being nervous.
Common triggers for anxiety are new situations, risk of failure, the potential for appearing foolish and possibly boring the audience. These triggers will cause an individual to act differently when one of them occur. My most common symptoms of anxiety are tapping my foot or continuously bouncing my leg up and down. It’s normal, it’s a symptom of nervousness and I use three different ways to manage it: experience, visualization and relaxation.
You will feel much more comfortable in front of an audience if you have had more opportunities for doing so. It’s the experience that will ease this anxiety. I myself like to practice in front of a mirror and view what I will look like when speaking. You can also rehearse in front of family or friends. The more experience you get in front of people while speaking, the more comfortable you will feel.
This method is used quite frequently by athletes. They envision what they need to do to be successful. I always take the time before a reception to stand at the podium before I begin to speak. This lets me see the entire room as it will be when I start my speech. It’s here where I visualize the entrance, first dance, or any other event that will happen while I’m delivering my message. If you see yourself doing it before hand you will feel more comfortable when you actually have to perform.
There are several ways to relax before having to speak before an audience. In a Google search you will find isometric exercises, breathing techniques and ‘mind over matter’ as ways to alleviate anxiety. Our mind and body are connected and feelings often affect the body physically. Practicing a relaxation method will help reduce tension, ease shortness of breath and help you support your voice.
The anxiety you feel when speaking is normal. What’s important is to know the triggers, how to manage the symptoms and to use tools such as relaxation, visualization and experience to help you cope with your nervousness. The next time you are about to give a speech, as your heart pounds, you have butterflies in your stomach and your knees quiver, turn your anxiety into positive energy using the methods mentioned above. Your audience will be impressed with your confidence and listen to every word you say. Hopefully these methods will give you control of your fear.