manage nerves speaking

There are two types of speakers in this world: those who get nervous and those who are liars. 

… Mark Twain

At The Speaking Intensive℠ one of the first topics we work with is how to manage nerves when speaking. While we explore many different strategies, this blog highlights 2 of them.

To keep ourselves in good speaking shape, we work out with a trainer. A former pro-football player, he’s taller than either of us can jump and wider than both of us standing shoulder to shoulder. Our trainer, let’s call him “Iron Man”, is fierce. Imagine our surprise when, after a tough workout, Ironman shyly said –

“You train speakers and I have to speak in front of audiences. It terrifies me. What can I do about overcoming nerves before speaking?”

Interesting comment from an NFL player.

Lisa’s response to Ironman:

“You can’t overcome nerves … and why would you want to? Remember the nervousness you felt before a big game when you were about to take the field? Did you run away? No!

Those nerves energized you. Made you even more determined. You trusted your training and preparation. You focused on doing your job.

The same goes for managing nerves when speaking. It’s the same thing!”

Alan’s response:

George Plimpton was the master of what he called ‘participatory journalism.’ When he wanted to write about sports, comedy or performance, he did it first.

Boxing? He stepped in the ring with Archie Moore, a world light-heavyweight champion. Football? He trained with the Detroit Lions. Comedy? He did standup at Caesar’s Palace. Music? In what for him was the scariest moment, he ‘crashed the cymbals’ for Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

Plimpton was struck by the similarity in the nervous energy all kinds of performers had before they went on.

Bottom line: Successful performers come to know that nervousness is the fuel of a great performance.

If you’re nervous before you speak, reframe it as energy and aliveness. Then go out and do your job … what you know to do … what you’ve been trained to do.”

How does Lisa manage nerves before speaking?

“Back in the skating days, I’d throw up before a performance. No Nerves … No Nausea … Bad Skate”.

Today Lisa still gets nervous but has replaced the spewing with physical activity to make nerves work for her. Jumping jacks, air-boxing and yogic breathing wring out the frenetic nay-saying nerves and make space for the crucial productive nerves that fuel her presentations.

Alan Parisse, Hall of Fame speaker, named One of the Top 21 Speakers for the 21st Century doesn’t get nervous, right?

“Wrong. This duck is paddling hard under the water.

I get nervous but don’t let that little voice in back of my head talk me down. I thank the voice for it’s opinion but don’t buy in. Instead, I trust my preparation and use those nerves to fuel my presentation.”

There are many strategies for managing nerves when speaking. Start with these 2 and you’ll be on your way!

  1. Get physical! Convert sabotaging nerves into nerves that fuel your performance.
  2. Don’t buy into “the voice”. Instead trust your preparation.

Learn more techniques for managing nerves when speaking and so much more at The Speaking Intensive℠. You’ll get 18 hours of coaching with us in a small group setting for half the cost of our private coaching retainer.

It’s a no-brainer! Register for a group session below.

Already graduated from The Speaking Intensive℠ and want to participate again? The repeater record stands at 4 times! Call us for your special repeater rate.

P.S. – Did you find this post helpful? Please share it with your friends, family, and colleagues!