Tips For Dealing With Nervousness

by
Julie Parmenter


Today I want to offer some tips to help deal with nervousness. Notice that I didn't say "overcome" nervousness? That is because I believe that there is nothing that will make you instantly calm while speaking in public except of course, for horse tranquilizers. The secret to achieving true calm, without drugs, is in practice. So I'd like to share some tips that will make you appear calm while you are working at expanding your comfort zone.

First of all, the very best way to deal with nervousness is too practice. Practice your speech so much that you can do it while on autopilot. That way, your lips and body will know what to do even if your mind has checked-out.

While speaking, concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply. Not only will you not hyper-ventilate this way but you will also keep a nice steady supply of oxygen flowing thru your blood stream. Nervous people have a tendency to take short shallows breaths.

Hum a key before you begin to speak and lower your voice just a tiny bit. The resultant noise will sound less like the pitch of a nervous mouse and more like a normal speaking voice. Avoid nervous hand gestures, too. Don't pretend that you are Adam and give yourself a fig leaf. Don't wring your hands like a substitute teacher in the wildest home room. If you haven't got a good use for them at the time, keep those hands hanging freely at your side.

And try to put the whole thing into perceptive. What's there to be afraid of anyway? Does the state of world peace hang on the result of this one presentation? Are small children going die as a result? Will it even be something that you remember in five years time? Why are we afraid of public speaking anyway? There is no good reason. We got something to say, why can't we say it? Some fears we have for a good reason. For instance, I'm not planning to take up sky diving any time soon. I'm not quite ready to die yet. But fear of public speaking? It is completely irrational. Think of the fear in that way and try to see it for what it really is. Stupid.

And if all else fails, quote a little Shakespeare. I have a favorite line that gave me strength and I used to repeat it like a mantra. Unfortunately the context from which it comes is a teensy bit grim. It happens to be the tool that Lady MacBeth used to talk the hubby into rubbing out the king. But it is a great line, none the less. And it is the line that I'd like to end this educational minute with. It goes like this: Screw your courage to the sticking place and we shall not fail.

ucstm@indiana.edu