The majority of Toastmasters say they joined a club to overcome their fear of public speaking. If you feel faint and clammy, or you can hear your heart racing at just the thought of standing in front of people, read on and learn to cool those nerves.
Your body reacts to your nervousness, and shallow breathing is one of the responses. Take big, slow diaphragmatic breaths. Dianne Glover, executive speech coach and Texas Toastmaster, says, “Make sure the exhale is longer than the inhale to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the body. Inhale to the count of eight, exhale to the count of 12. Repeat.”
2 Move your body.
The body overproduces adrenaline when you’re nervous, which can speed up your heart rate. Jump up and down and shake out your arms and legs to turn the adrenaline into focused energy. A quick walk around the block or dancing may also do the trick.
3 Positive self-talk.
Glover explains that speaking kindly to yourself can help build your confidence and calm your nerves. “You may have a saboteur lurking in your subconscious,” she says. “I use a mantra or give myself a pep talk to combat that voice of negativity. I repeat the word ‘calm’ or ‘I am enough’ before I speak.”
4 Focus on the audience.
Remember the reason why you’re giving your speech—to share a message with those in attendance! Don’t put your focus on yourself. Think about the audience and remember that your presentation isn’t about you, it’s about imparting knowledge to them. Your purpose can become greater than your fear.
5 Know your subject.
With a strong purpose and grasp of your message, there’s no need to fear sharing it. If you know the content of your speech through and through, you’ll be able to step onstage with confidence. You are the expert here!
6 Visualize success.
Imagine yourself giving a great speech and think about how well you’ve done. What gestures did you implement? Was your voice clear and strong? Picture yourself feeling relaxed and accomplished after the speech—your future self. Channel that confidence and step boldly into action.
Staff The Toastmaster magazine staff is comprised of five editorial team members. Learn more about them on the Staff page.
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