Of all the articles written on public speaking, the most frequent subject deals with nervousness and how to get rid of it. And while you may find that you are able to eliminate those nervous jitters after the first 5 minutes of your presentation, the problem is that your audience judges you the moment you open your mouth to speak – not 5 minutes later, after you have ‘warmed up’.
Instead of trying to put an end to your nervousness, I suggest that you learn how to take control of it. In doing so, you will then be able to put that rush of adrenaline to good use. There is no doubt that nervousness creates a fight, flight, or freeze response in our bodies. The problem with some is that they would prefer the flight scenario but often get stuck in the freeze mode. Truly the best of the 3 responses is the ‘fight’ mode.
When you are engaged in battle in the sense of the fight, then your senses are more acute, your focus is sharpened, and you are more alert. These 3 reactions are a great strength in public speaking if you can make use of them and not try to eliminate them.
Yes, I want your heart beating faster; and, yes, I want you to get more oxygen to your brain. However, in the panic mode, your heart is beating faster but you are not necessarily getting more oxygen. We are renowned for being lazy or shallow breathers in which we do not take our air all the way down to the diaphragm (a muscular partition separating the chest from the abdomen). What this means is that our upper chest breathing is actually increasing our panic because it does not allow for the elimination of the toxins in our blood.
Breathing with the support of the diaphragm, on the other hand, allows for the elimination of those toxins which means that you can then take control of your nervousness: your flight or freeze response changes to one ready to fight. [Incidentally, all mammals breathe with the support of the diaphragm except for the most intelligent of the mammals! While we were born breathing properly, sometime during our childhood development we revert to upper chest breathing.]
All professional athletes, musicians, singers, and actors experiences nervousness; however, they do not resort to the flight or freeze mode. If they did, there would be no performances and there would no sporting events.
Learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm and I guarantee your fight mode will win the battle the next time you must address an audience.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, group and corporate training in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit her website at Voice Dynamic and watch as Nancy describes the best means of controlling nervousness in any form of public speaking.