Dealing with nerves when public speaking – beyond breathing


I was asked the other day about my top tips to avoid nerves when public speaking. A lot of the people that I work with on their public speaking are beyond the simple recommendations of ‘take deep breaths’ and ‘imagine everyone naked’ and so more often than not my recommendations for dealing with nerves are more about ‘visualisation’.

HEALTH WARNING: The suggestions below might sound a lot like Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), but I actually have no training in that area. Instead, my recommendations are built on common sense, logic and experience. Can’t beat that, can you?
Generally, when it comes to public speaking, we are all great at visualising the worst possible outcome. It’s very rare that you’ll meet a nervous speaker who tells you they are imagining it all going well!

If negative visualisations can make us nervous, then surely positive visualisations can make us more confident. Next time you’re feeling nervous, lie back, close your eyes, breathe (yes, I know!) and visualise the scenes below. You’ll be amazed at the difference it can make to your mindset, attitude and the results that you get from your public speaking!

1. Visualise a confident speaker. Visualise exactly what they look like, how they sound and how they move. What makes them appear so confident? How do the audience react to them? Are they silent with anticipation, are they applauding, are they smiling?

2. Visualise yourself speaking confidently. Visualise exactly how you will stand, how you will move and how you will deliver every line. Visualise and imagine your voice ringing out loud and confidently. Visualise that audience smiling at you, and the sound of their applause.

Feel better?

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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