My palms are sweating profusely. My stomach is making crazy noises and I couldn’t eat something right now if I forced myself. My heart is racing like it’s going to burst out of my chest. Wait ... is it going to burst out of my chest?!
Does any of this sound familiar? Well, these are many of the thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations that I experience moments before taking the stage and getting up in front of an audience in any capacity.
I’ve felt this way since I was a little tween in middle school standing in front of my classroom. I remember feeling an immense pressure to say the right thing and to avoid getting laughed at by my classmates. If there was an opportunity to run and hide, I would have taken it.
If any of this sounds like some of the thoughts in your head, I totally get it. And I also promise that no matter how nervous you are, there is a way to become a kick-ass public speaker.
Over the years, I have compiled my seven favorite public speaking tips that have worked for me whether I was auditioning for a TV gig, pitching myself for a major opportunity or actually taking the stage to deliver a (hopefully) powerful message. Sometimes when we get nervous, it’s really hard to feel anything else in that moment.
So next time you feel those nerves coming, try accessing one of these powerful tools instead!
1. Create a ritual around getting ready.
It took me a while to figure out the best way for me to get ready for a big event or meeting. But now that I have, these rituals are my saving grace. My rituals include applying lavender essential oils to calm my nerves, meditating to “I Am Light” by India Arie to remind me of the light I have within me, and journaling out all of my fears so I get them out of my head and on to paper. Find one (or a few) rituals that resonate with you and help you feel calm, in control and happy before you get ready to rock.
2. Meditate on something you love about yourself.
Right before I walk on stage, when my nerves are at their peak, I put my hands on my chest, and take in three, really deep breaths. I think about one thing I absolutely love about myself. It can be as small as “I love my hair today” or “I am so proud to be here!”
Whatever the thought is, it has to be something you really believe. Then meditate on it for 30 seconds. When you open your eyes, you will radiate that energy so much that everyone you see will feel it.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
I used to resist this one a ton. I would tell myself that I didn’t need to rehearse, and that I could just go up on stage with confidence and everything would be fine.
That is, I did that until I total flopped in front of a crowd. At that moment, all I wished was that I had just made the extra effort to practice! Now that so many of us have smartphones and laptops, we can use them to our advantage to make our lives easier. Since almost all of these devices come with a voice recorder function, try going somewhere you can really focus and say your presentation or speech out loud in to the recorder multiple times. Having something concrete recorded for you to review in private, rather than just saying whatever it is you're rehearsing out loud, will make you take the exercise more seriously.
4. Get your nerves out in front of others.
While it’s important to practice what you are going to say to yourself, it is just as important to practice speaking in front of an audience. You will get a sense of how you feel in your body, what some of your quirks might be and how you pace yourself, all of which are all things that are hard to see on our own. Ask a trusted friend to listen to you or send an email to a group of close friends and create your own public speaking "support group."
You never know who else might be faced with the same nerves and there could be a group of you who want to talk things out in a safe space! In addition, Toastmakers International is an amazing resource for people around the globe where you can join a group and practice public speaking in front of a super encouraging audience that will give you concrete feedback.
5. Know that your audience is rooting for you.
Think about how you feel when you are watching a performance or presentation. Sure, we all have some judgmental thoughts that come up, but more than anything, you want the person in front of you to kill it up there! Nothing would inspire you more than seeing that person be their best selves and have a total win right in front of you. That’s how the people you are presenting in front of feel about you. I promise. Remember that before you get in front of a crowd and they will literally transform before your eyes.
6. Lighten up — and celebrate yourself, no matter what.
Sometimes the energy of fear and worry can feel so heavy. That's why I like to mix it up and create celebration around the event I am worried about. This celebration could look like pampering yourself beforehand or making sure you have a fun night with your soul sisters planned for afterward. It dials back the intensity a bit, and gives you something to look forward to!
7. Change nervousness into excitement.
If you think about it, nerves and excitement are one in the same. It’s simply our thoughts that differentiate them in moments like public speaking. So when I get nervous now, I always remind myself of this. Speaking your truth is such a gift and choosing to be excited about it is much more empowering. It’s OK to be nervous; that doesn’t go away. But reframing the event allows you to stand in a place of power instead of fear.
It may sound simple, but these tricks create powerful shifts in your mindset and presence, so that you can be the real you in front of a group and speak your truth. Practice them and get ready to rock it, no matter what it is you're doing.