Public Speaking Tips: Get Rid of Your Nerves and Master Your Stage
Public speaking. I know, I know. It’s a truly terrifying thought. Let’s be real for a minute here. When we think about public speaking, so many of us get sweaty palms, we want to scream, and we start to get nervous farts (who hasn’t been there, am I right?)
But it doesn’t have to be terrifying.
After years of teaching, doing presentations, and making speeches, I’ve discovered ways to not only be comfortable with public speaking, but to actually enjoy doing it.
I wanted to share with you some tricks that have worked for me and have helped me calm my nerves and boost my confidence in order to master my stage and engage my audience.
This is the single most important thing you need to master when you’re speaking. Breathing correctly not only amplifies your voice and presence, but it will literally calm you down.
If you’ve ever played an instrument or did any acting, then you’ll know what breathing through your diaphragm is. This is how you need to breathe when you’re speaking.
I want you to take a second and put your hand on your stomach. Pay attention to how it moves when you’re breathing. It probably goes in when you breathe in and goes out when you breathe out. BUT, you need to train yourself to do the opposite.
When you breathe in, your stomach should expand because you’re taking in all of the new air. Then, when you breathe out, your stomach should go in because you’re releasing that air. It makes sense, but weirdly enough, we have to intentionally train our bodies to do this.
Breathing through your diaphragm will naturally amplify your voice because you’re going to be giving yourself more air. As an added bonus, breathing like this naturally calms your nerves. Even just focusing on your breath calms your nerves.
Before you start speaking, take a few seconds to yourself and just focus on your breathing. Just that. It’s going to make a world a difference.
I used to be in a choir and our choir director always told us to make sure that our posture was good, because if it’s not, you will faint.
I mean, I don’t want to scare you, but it’s true.
When you’re speaking and using up a lot of air to project your voice, you should NOT have your feet together. DON’T DO IT! You won’t be stable. I don’t want any of you falling down or fainting during your next presentation!
Instead, you should stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. This will give you the support you need and you will feel more comfortable.
Also, as with everything, you should stand tall with your shoulders back. Be confident, don’t slouch.
For me, this has always been the most awkward part about public speaking. What the heck do I do with my hands? I don’t want them to just be hanging at my sides because that looks weird, but then, where do I put them!??!
I have a few tricks here:
Don’t be afraid to use them. Using hand gestures not only engages your audience, but it can help calm you down and be more passionate about what you’re speaking about
When I’m talking about more serious matters or if I’m in a debate and listening to my opponent speak, I like to hold my hands together in front of me. It shows strength, but also thoughtfulness.
Pro-Tip: While you’re holding your hands together, try pinching the skin between your thumb and pointer finger. If you are nauseous, this will help alleviate that feeling, and if you’re nervous, I’ll help ground you.
This kind of depends on the person and this tip may or may not work for you. But, I have found that it works for me.
Speeches and presentations, even if you write them, can be unpredictable. They can change due to the environment and your audience. Unfortunately, those are two things you don’t have much control over.
It’s important to be familiar with your content, but you don’t want to have it written down or memorized word for word. If you do this, you leave no space for error or change. You should be open to both.
You will mess up. It’s going to happen because we’re human. And that’s totally okay! You may stumble on a word. You may slip up on a joke. You may forget to say something when you wanted to say it. It’s okay! Adapt and go with it! Be flexible and be open to change. That’s where the real magic happens.
As I said before, don’t slouch. Slouching shows that you feel like you don’t deserve to take up your full space. You do.
You deserve to take up all that space and then some. So stand tall. Put those shoulders back and show that you’re not afraid (even if you are a little bit).
You have a purpose and you will impact someone’s life in some way with your presentation or speech. Even if it’s just one person, it will be worth it.
Don’t be afraid to take up space.