S.T.R.E.S.S.E.D. about Speaking in Public? Here are Tools to Calm You Down

As is often the case, last week I had a client say, “I get so nervous about giving presentations—it affects me for weeks beforehand. The worst time, however, is right before I stand up. I feel like my heart is going to come out of my chest.”

On the off chance some of you have found yourself feeling the same, here are a few tools you can use to help calm yourself down:

Play “I See/I Hear/I Feel”:

How does this exercise work? As you are waiting to present, you rotate through your senses. This might lead to an internal monologue along the lines of, “I see the water on the podium. I hear the buzz of the fluorescent lights. I feel my feet on the floor. I see the sun outside the window. I hear X talking about Y. I feel my glasses on my nose…”

You get it.

Why do I like this exercise? For me, it gives a focus to my racing thoughts, and it grounds me in my body. (If I have a lot of time to wait, I add in “I Smell…” which usually makes me smile.)

Push the Wall:

I heard Yul Brynner used to do this exercise to calm down before interviews. How does it work? Prior to entering the room where you’re going to speak, find a quiet place and push the nearest wall with all your might—really put your back into it.

What you’ll discover is that when you stop, all of muscles in your body r.e.l.a.x.

Remember, “Nerves are the respect you pay your audience.”

This is a line from the movie “Being Julia,” in which Annette Bening plays an aging actress who was once the toast of London’s theatrical world. “Nerves are the respect you pay your audience,” is her advice to the ingénue who is longing to usurp her position.  

I love it because too often we see nervousness as something bad and I don’t think it is. Being nervous means you want to do well—it’s just energy. So the next time you feel anxious, my request/suggestion to you would be to say to yourself, “Hurray! More energy for me to use to knock the socks off my audience.”

For more tools you can use to prepare yourself for a terrific presentation, check out, “Stupid Car Fight? Writer’s Block? Prepping an Important Presentation? Walk it Out