Remember the first time you traveled alone or the first time you stood up for yourself, the first time you rode the bicycle without any help or the first time you cooked a meal on your own? Do you recall the feeling of exhilaration whenever you achieved something?
What you felt in those few moments gave you enough strength and confidence to do them again and again, several times over the past few years.
When I am at my wits end with nervousness, I try to recall those feelings. “Hey, you did that on your own, didn’t you? You can do this too. Think about how great you’ll feel when you’ve done it.”
I have always been a quiet child, the one who is content to sit in a corner and read storybooks.
But one day, in the fifth grade, we had to share a story that left an impact on us. It was the first time I ever spoke in front of a large group of people, even if they were my teachers and classmates.
I clenched my fists and stood on my toes. I was so nervous, my knees and hands shook. I wanted nothing but to run away from the scene.
But I didn’t run away.
I had been practicing in front of the mirror for weeks, writing, editing and perfecting my speech as best as I could. I didn’t want all that hard work to go in vain.
I greeted the audience in a shaky voice, the butterflies in my stomach, making me dizzy.
“A bit louder, dear.” my English teacher said kindly. I nodded and started again. This time focusing on what I was saying and not the expressions on the audience’s faces.
A few minutes into the speech, I forgot about my shaking limbs and started to gesticulate along with my words.
My ears turned hot, my skin was flushed and I was sweating profusely by the time I stopped speaking. (My friend would tell me later that no one even noticed I was nervous once I dove into the speech. It was surprising to think that all of that went unnoticed.)
But people were also clapping, my best friend was cheering loudly and my teacher patted me on the back and said “Well done.”
I had a bright smile on my face the whole day.
For the first time I felt positive about the prospect of public speaking. I was so glad I hadn’t run away. If I had, I wouldn’t have felt the warm jubilation in my heart.
Everyone is confident of something about themselves, even if they think it is irrelevant.
Here’s some tips:
It helps to downplay the situation, if it has the potential to be overwhelming.
“One hundred people will be listening…”
“Yeah? Well over sixty of them will probably be daydreaming.”
Think about the worst case scenario:
“What if you forget?”
“First of all, I won’t. If I do, its not the end of the world now, is it?”
It also helps to be imaginative.
“If you freeze up…”
“I’ll probably set the stage on fire and melt myself back to life. Just kidding, I won’t freeze up.”
Confidence is cool. Even if you have to fake it for a while, to get yourself pepped up.
“The other speakers are better than you…”
“I’ve never spoken in such a platform before, how do the other speakers know I’m not better than them?”
Don’t be afraid of the aftermath. There is always a way out.
“The audience will throw tomatoes at you…”
“At least it will be memorable. I might put the video on Youtube and get some views.”
Be unbelievably optimistic.
“Your crush will be in the audience. What if you fall or something?”
“My crush will finally notice me! We’ll meet up afterwards, get married and fly off into the sunset!”
If you are worried of situations that might occur, or are worrying too much, you might like to read this : What ifs…and Me
I still get nervous before a presentation or while addressing a group of people. But, I have started to enjoy it. I like the feeling of sharing my knowledge about something I am passionate about. With enough practice, opportunity, and some basic idea about a subject, I can speak on almost any topic for at least a couple of minutes.
Once you get over the initial fear of getting the words out, believe me, you’ll start having fun. Insert humor, anecdotes, inspirational tales…whatever works for you and enamour your audience. It takes a while, but it certainly is worth the effort.
Believe in yourself and keep the faith. You can do this.