Are your nervous butterflies preventing you from claiming the spotlight?
When you think about public speaking, do you get that sinking feeling and start to shake? Is speaking in public one of your greatest fears? Do you feel nervous because you fear you will not be able to get your point across or believe you are not as good as you’d like to be?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stand up in front of a group and talk in such a way that you hold your audiences’ attention and make them laugh or get them activated by a worthy cause? As a professional speaker myself, I certainly appreciate how good it feels to have audience attendees approach you after you speak to tell you what a great job you did or how your stories touched them. But none of that can happen if the fear prevents you from speaking in the first place.
Slight nervousness (butterflies) are normal for everyone, especially the first few times you make an important presentation or speak in public. But did you know that those jitters can actually help you and give you an edge? (Of course, only if you are not throwing up while they call your name or calling in sick so you wont have to make that dreaded presentation)
When those butterflies happened to me….
I remember what it was like preparing to deliver my first hypnosis show – I was so nervous – (whose kidding who … I was literally panicked!) I had sold tickets for a charity event (to mostly friends of course). I had recruited two other entertainers to work with me on stage – misery loves company after all! I had several other friends manning the auction tables and recruiting volunteers. But still …. I realized that I had never done a show before. Heck, I had never even seen one. I understood that without volunteers there could be no show and that had me truly rattled!
In spite of all my preparation and enthusiasm for doing this in the first place, I was literally talking myself into a tizzy. On the day of the event, I had managed to manifest an all consuming cold which gave me laryngitis and plugged the sinuses. Now what? What if no one volunteered? What if the show was boring and everyone asked for their money back? What if I suck!
Thank goodness for good friends who wouldn’t let me quit (and the oversold tickets that made me do it!) and the pharmaceuticals that gave me a voice to perform with. That show went on to be a tremendous success and one that we measured future engagements against for nearly 7 years. WOW! And to think it almost never happened.
No matter what we do in life, there will come a time when we need to express ourselves to an audience that we perceive as being not ready for. And we can talk ourselves into all kinds of reasons why we ought not be in the spotlight. But what opportunities are being missed because of this apprehension you have developed?
Before I share with you some tips to help you tame those butterflies and get them flying in formation so you can leverage their energy and avoid freezing up, let’s explore where all this nervousness started.
Where did the story “I can’t do it” start?
In your schooldays, were you ever asked to read out loud or perform to the class? Was it torture, or did you enjoy it (or maybe it was somewhere in between?) Did the teacher ever praise you or embarrass you in front of the class?
Did just reading that question elicit unpleasant or pleasant feelings and memories?
Let me ask you another question (and just your perception here – no need to survey family members to find out if you are right!
How well do you think you hold people’s attention?
Are people captivated when you are talking or does their attention appear to wander ? Are you regularly asked to explain what you mean? Do people seem not to have a clue what you’re talking about? Do you sometimes find it difficult to speak up?
Let’s face it, the answers to these questions are at the root of your procrastination. These are all contributors to the story you tell yourself about your inability (or lack of readiness) to claim the spotlight – today. Those nervous butterflies are wreaking havoc on your future potential. If you continue to play to them, you will miss out on promotions, influential conversations and new opportunities for growth. It is time to stop all that.
Every professional speaker or entertainer has a story somewhat like mine. Because we all have that first experience to get out of the way. That is how we learn and get better.
We don’t improve our skills thinking about them, we get better by doing.
A few clever tips to help you brave your next speech or presentation:
Start by intentionally putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation (like I did with the first hypnosis event) so that you can deal with internal discomfort more effectively. Once you make a commitment to step up, you are going to have to prepare yourself for the big moment – and in positive ways not that negative self talk.
You need to make time before the big event to warm up. Unless you are a fulltime pro at adjusting your state of mind you should arm yourself before hand with what you are going to say and how you are going to face the up and coming challenges head on.
It’s important not to leave your physical out of this too, even if this means you switch your iPod playlist from Jazz to Hard Rock or Clubbing music with some added in push ups or sprints to get you pumped beforehand, this will get you pumped and ready for the presentation ahead.
When it comes time to speak, here are a few tips that can help you tame the butterflies:
- Get your Body & Eyes Up
When people are relaxed and happy their bodies are up – thumbs up, eyebrows up, even toes up!
A good posture (head up, shoulders back, both feet on the floor) says we are confident. Watch that you don’t sway, rock, or pace when you are speaking to others.
Keep your eyes up and looking straight ahead. You are more likely to activate nervous energy and uncertainty when you look at the floor and your audience will think you don’t know what you are talking about as well.
Smile. Look friendly and confident even if you don’t feel that way at first. A smile can shift your mood and theirs!
- Know your stuff! Speak Clearly
Talk to yourself. Clarify the message in your own mind before you try communicating it to someone else. Rehearse a little bit.
When you speak to individuals, take the time to express yourself in an organized manner. Avoid the desire to rush through the message.
If you need some help preparing the content and flow, consider hiring a coach to help you sift, sort and prepare.
Take deep breaths that can get oxygen into your brain.
Breathe in deep and hold it for a count of 2 then exhale for a count of 4 – repeat 3 times to keep your mind clear and the nervousness away.
- Expect to do well. Give yourself lots of positive feedback or self-talk.
Most of us are way too hard on ourselves. So plan what you will say and then be optimistic it will come out right and be received well.
- Create a circle of strength and step into it
Imagine a circle on the floor in front of you.
Remember a time when you did well at anything. Add it into your circle
Think of things you feel good about –add them into the circle
Take a deep breath, give yourself an anchor (like an OK sign) and step into the circle and imagine all those good positive vibes entering into you through your feet – drawing you up in strength, power and confidence
Imagine strength in your voice and in your thoughts.
Smile as you say to yourself: I AM READY!
Go claim the spotlight. Offer your hand, your heart or your time to others and you will be remembered in remarkable ways.