Feeling nervous about presenting at events?
I’ve had a lot of conversations this week about nerves, and people saying they’re going back to going on stage and speaking live, or getting ready to deliver online and hybrid events, telling me; “I feel really nervous. I feel like I’m about to step on stage and I can’t remember anything,” or even to the extent of “I don’t actually want to put on an online event because it makes me feel so nervous, and so sick, and so stressed out before I go onstage, I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Nerves are good
I thought I’d share a few tips that I’ve scooped up from various speakers and mentors along the way. I want to start out by saying nerves are good. Nerves are awesome, in fact, the reason I say that is because nervousness (or the chemicals that go crazy in your body when you feel nervous) helps you perform. It’s a kind of stress anxiety. It helps make your brain sharp, it helps make your body sharp, and it levels up your performance. Without the nerves you kind of soldier on, on stage and you’d mumble a little bit, it actually makes you even more vibrant if you channel them in the right way.
Nervous excitement about your event
Nerves are necessary and nerves are good, nerves are also the same chemicals in your body as excitement. The only thing that’s different is the context and the words that we put around the nerves.
Imagine if I told you that, that feeling you get when you’re about to walk on stage or you’re about to hit broadcast on your live online event, that feeling is the same as the feeling you used to get on Christmas morning when you were five years old. It’s that excitement.
It’s those butterflies, it’s those sweaty palms, it’s that intense nausea for some people. It’s the same excitement, and nerves are the same. It’s just the words and the context that we put around the situation.
So rather than saying “I feel nervous”, what about saying, “I feel excited?” You can feel nervous, you can feel apprehensive, that’s completely normal. But it’s also possible that you feel excited. You’re about to deliver what you’re passionate about to people that want to hear about it. How can that not make you feel excited? A slight bit of reframing, let me know how you get on with that.
Preparation: the day before the event
One good way to combat those nerves is with preparation. So the day before, make sure that you’ve got your slides ready. Make sure you’ve got your slides in three or four different places. Ensure you’re well practised in how to run through your slides.
If it’s a face to face event; do you know how to hook up your laptop? Do you know how to use the clicker to make your slides move along?
If it’s online, do you know how to share your slides in the online space? Are you comfortable with what you can see on the screen during your online event? Or do you need an extra pair of hands to come and help you? That’s okay too. But whatever makes life easier for you.
Do you have a clear plan of your timings? Do you know which key points you’d like to be hitting? Mapping all of this out helps to calm your monkey brain, it helps to calm that animal brain and soothe yourself so that you can act with your high level of performance without panic, that’s where nerves get dangerous when they cross over into panic.
Make sure you’ve got some contingencies as this also helps to calm that worry e.g. what if What if the WiFi goes down? Well, what if it does? You’ve got your phone and you’ve got really strong 4G, so you can still stream. You can just reschedule it, people will understand.
What if I forget what I’m saying? But what if you do? You know enough about your chosen topic that you could speak about it with no problems? And if you’re extra concerned, what about writing some filler questions down on a piece of paper? So if something does go wrong, and you forget what on earth you were talking about, throw it open to the audience. e.g. ‘What brings you here today?’ ‘What are you hoping to get out of today?’ ‘What is the biggest problem you’re having with X right now?’ Asking those questions of your audience, helps to start a conversation so your audience feels more human, and we’re all much better at having conversations than delivering soliloquy. It also gives your brain time to calm down. Listening to those answers will then fill your head with all the stuff that you were supposed to say. And you can get back on track. Try some contingency questions.
Preparation: the night before the event
Don’t forget to sleep. Even if you are tossing and turning, please do go to bed the night before a performance. Sleep can really impact the way your brain functions the next day. Go to bed early. If you fall asleep, great. At least you’ll get a few hours before your busy brain wakes up, and if you don’t fall asleep at least your body is having rest. Try to stay away from falling down the rabbit hole of your phone on social media. Try to stay away from watching endless amounts of TV. If you have to read a book, get rid of that blue light and just allow your body to relax. Try some meditation, as long as you’re in bed and resting. Don’t get worked up, if you can’t fall asleep. Just let it pass. Sleep is really key.
So what do you do right before you go on stage? You’ve done all your prep, everything is set up, the room is filling up nicely. You’ve hit go on broadcast, and your welcome slides and your welcome music is playing. What are you doing? Standing at the back of the room hyperventilating or are you sitting at the back of the room?
Having a very clear vision of what success looks like, I want you to stand at the back of the room with both feet planted on the floor. If you can do it to the side or out of view, even better. You might just have to duck into a side room or you might just have to switch your camera off. It’s important that you stand with your feet flat on the floor, that you close your eyes and imagine what this event looks like if it couldn’t go any better, if it’s utterly flawless.
What does this event look like? What does it feel like? What does the audience look like? And spend a few minutes picturing that. How will you feel afterwards if it’s gone perfectly? How will you feel afterwards if you’ve gotten every single point across, every single piece of value that you plan to give is given and received? Think about and feel about what that is like.
Preparation: last minute pre-event advice
Take some deep breaths. I don’t want you to take some deep breaths in the normal way people say; stand there and take a deep breath so your shoulders come up, your chest comes up and all you’re doing is shallow breathing into the top of your chest and it doesn’t calm your nervous system at all. What I want you to think about doing, still with your feet planted is breathing out first, breathe out everything you’ve got in your lungs. A natural breath in and then breathe out again. Really breathe out hard. Think about breathing out through your stomach to centre yourself. Centre your body, centre your mind and allow your body to calm itself, this allows the nerves to stop jangling quite so loud. Allow your breathing to settle and for you to get some good quality oxygen into those lungs. Let your breath out first.
You’ve got this
Don’t forget that you’ve got this, you know what you’re talking about, otherwise, you wouldn’t be offering this event. You know that even if you didn’t have a speech prepared, even if you didn’t have a lesson plan, you could give people value in just talking about what you’re passionate about.The topic of this event might be one day of training for beginners, you could start out without even writing a script, giving people value. Just opening your mouth and sharing your passion is going to be good stuff for people that haven’t heard it. So don’t panic if your mind goes blank. It’s all in there and it will come out as soon as you relax into what you’re saying. If you forget one or two things, don’t worry most people are trying to share too much in their content anyway. Save it for the next session. And you can always take a break, send the group off for a five minute leg stretch, or a refreshment break so that you can check your notes and check in – where are we what have I said already? What do I need to come back to?
You’ve got it. It’s all in there. It’s all in your body. You’ve got this you can control the situation. So just focus on the positive bits, focus on what it’s going to feel like when you’ve delivered an awesome session.
That’s it. Those are my top tips on controlling your nerves. Let me know how you get on. Please do let me know if there’s anything that really particularly worked, and also let me know if there’s anything you think I’ve missed off that really works for you that people should know about. I’d love to share it.
So for now, if you found it useful, leave me a comment below, especially if you’ve got any questions. Until next time, take care, go well, and I will speak to you soon.