How do you control your nerves the first time you give a speech?

Many bloggers and freelancers get public speaking opportunities after they become well known. If it’s your first time giving a speech, how do you control your nerves? What tips can you follow?

You should be excited about your first public speaking opportunity. And it is quite normal to be nervous about giving a speech.

There are several reasons public speakers get nervous. You are standing up in front of a room full of people, and all the attention is on you. You’re afraid of doing something stupid, like tripping over a wire, getting your notes mixed up, or leaving your fly open. You’re worried your PowerPoint won’t work. You’re worried the audience won’t like what you have to say. You’re worried your voice will come out as a little squeak instead of loudly and confidently.

These are common reasons for public speaking anxiety, but remember you have several things in your favor. First, your audience can’t see how nervous you are. You are probably the only one who notices how shaky your hands are, or how wobbly your voice sounds. You read more into your nervousness than the audience does.

Second, your audience wants you to succeed! Think about it: They are spending their precious time, and possibly money if they’re paying to see you, and they want a good return for their investment. They aren’t coming to see you flop.

A third point going for you is that no one has ever died of embarrassment. At least, not that I know of. When I spoke in college classrooms, I tripped over my own feet a few times and tried technology that didn’t work when the big moment came, with skeptical students staring at me. You know what? The very fact that I’m still here to write this blog means I lived through it. And you will, too.

Public speaking anxiety

Here are some tips on how you can control your public speaking anxiety.

There are several ways you can control your nerves. Before your speech, learn about your audience and select a topic you’re familiar with. Start preparing right away. This gives you plenty of time to rehearse. Do your speech out loud, and simulate the real speech conditions. This means standing up, moving and gesturing, and practicing with your notes. I like to use a presentation clicker with PowerPoint, and I would practice my slides before each class lecture, with notes and clicker in hand, to make sure everything worked right.

Breathe and think calmly. The more you say things like, “Omigod, I have to give a speech, and I’m so nervous!” the more nervous you’ll be. But if you say, “Yeah, I have to give a speech, but I think I’ll do fine,” the more positive you’ll be.

You can also use the image of yourself doing well. Picture yourself in front of the room, speaking perfectly and eloquently, and the audience applauding enthusiastically when you’re done. Reassure yourself that you’ve prepared and rehearsed, and that you can do this.

Finally, learn to use your anxiety to fuel your energy level before your speech. Channel your nerves into extra enthusiasm and excitement about your performance. If you own your nervousness, think about all you have going for you, and prepare well, you’ll do fine!

Readers, what do you think? Do you have any other advice for owning and controlling your public speaking nerves? Leave a comment and tell us!

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