When you feel anxious before your speech, there’s a simple trick that can bring some welcome relief: constructive self-talk. Instead of fretting over worst-case fears, or just trying to “gut it out” and ignore the horrible anxious nerves, try talking yourself down with the phrases below. They’ve been proven to help restore focus, mend confidence and build positive energy.
“This anxiety feels terrible, but I can manage it.”
The first step to managing anxiety is to acknowledge and accept it. Just like any other problem in life, there’s a solution to your anxiety. Start by asking yourself what might cause the apprehensions, and work your way out from there. Are you afraid your audience won’t understand your presentation? Then prepare an easy-to-follow outline. Do you feel your voice or manner will bore your listeners? Then review your talk, work out where you should vary your volume, pitch, or speed to add emphasis, and practice until you’re comfortable, and confident of how you sound. We humans have conquered much of the natural world. You can conquer your anxiety!
“Breathe and stay calm.”
When anxiety starts creeping in, your body tenses up and you tend to take quick, shallow breaths. That makes the heart beat faster, and contributes to physical feelings of anxiety, and more negative thoughts. Break the pattern: Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, then and exhale through your mouth. Counting your breaths out loud may help you focus on this relaxing process and divert your attention from discouraging mental scenarios.
“I am more confident than I think I am.”
Yes, you are! In a public speaking study, participants who were asked to give an extemporaneous speech, and then to rate their own degree of nervousness. The researchers compared the results with the audience’s ratings of the same talks. Results showed that the speakers over-estimated how nervous they appeared to their audiences. And this wasn’t just a one-time finding. This illusion of self-transparency – the assumption that others can “read” you – has been validated in other studies, too. So don’t be so concerned with how you must look to your audience. In their eyes, you look more composed than you may be feeling!
“Public speaking is not dangerous; I will be OK.”
Public speaking may make you sweat and fidget, but it will never cause your death. Those jitters are just temporary, and will only last for the duration of your speech (if they don’t just disappear once you get rolling). What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps somebody will tweet about your talk. Perhaps someone will tell you straight out that you were a mess. But hey, if it’s any consolation, even top celebrities have been labeled as terrible Oscar hosts and received their own share of criticism. If you accidentally do something embarrassing, handle it as gracefully as you can – and then do what your listeners will do: forgive yourself and remember, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
“My last speech didn’t go well, but I’ve learned from it.”
You’ve probably heard phrases like “It’s lovelier the second time around” or “Third time’s a charm.” They’re good reminders that you’ll have a “next time” to showcase your constantly improving communication skills. Remember that no one is born a public speaker. Even the most respected speakers – people like Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates – were once in your shoes. Just keep going at it until it becomes easy and natural.
“I will not let stage fright stop me from delivering a great speech.”
Public speaking is an opportunity to exercise your communication skills; but delivering a speech, presentation or product demo also showcases your analytic skill, stress management ability, passion, and a lot more. So go out there and give it your best shot. Who knows? Maybe one of your listeners will invite you to another speaking engagement, hire you as a consultant, or connect with you for other career opportunities.
“If I forget what to say, I’m sure I’ll be able to wing it.”
Even the best speakers occasionally lose their train of thought during a speech or presentation. Such brief memory gaps frequently happen because the speaker is attending to so many different things during a performance: their message, the audience’s reaction, their visuals, the venue, and a whole basket of distractions. In this blog post, we’ve covered how to handle all this with composure.
“I believe in my abilities, not anxieties.”
Fear-based thoughts trick you into believing your anxiety is justified. In reality, they are just thoughts. They are not realities. They are not happening. They simply exist in a corner of your mind. But your abilities – they’ve been with you for years. They’ve helped you cope with previous challenges and accomplish milestones. It’s your strengths and abilities that have shaped you into the person you are now. Why let destructive thoughts – mere mental shadows – outweigh your true capabilities?
Do you have a stress-relieving mantra you use before speaking in public? Share it with us in the comments!