Thursday, May 7, 2015

3 easy, evidence-based ways to calm your public speaking nerves

These are among the simplest tools in my coaching toolkit--so simple, many speakers dismiss them out of hand as ineffective. But there's research behind each of these smart, small tactics you can put to use to help your mind and body reframe the stress and anxiety you feel before you give a speech, talk or presentation:
  1. Power posing: You really can use body motion to get your confidence boosted--and quickly. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy researched using power posing--posing with your arms taking up as much space as possible above your waist--before high-stakes speaking tasks, specifically those in which you might be evaluated, like a job interview or public speaking. And it works. To see how to do it and learn about the findings, watch Amy Cuddy's TED talk on power posing, now one of the most-watched-ever TED talks, and read the research behind it.
  2. Smiling: Research shows that simply smiling has surprising benefits, from lowering your blood pressure and stress-inducing hormones to improving your emotions and how you process them. There's another TED talk at the link to clue you in to all the special physical and mental benefits you get from simply pushing your cheeks up into a smile (that's what triggers the brain chemicals to release). Best of all, no one will know while you're doing it. My advice: Start smiling before the talk. You may as well get all the feel-good benefits before you're on stage.
  3. Coaching yourself with the right pronoun: Pronouns matter when psyching yourself up, new research shows. So instead of saying to yourself, "I need to look at the audience more," try the second or third person, and say "You need to look at the audience more." Tested on people about to give a five-minute speech, the researchers found "participants who silently referred to themselves in the second or third person or used their own names while preparing for a five-minute speech were calmer and more confident and performed better on the task than those who referred to themselves using 'I' or 'me'."
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Nan Palmero)

If you're moderating a panel discussion or organizing a conference with panels, make sure you get my new ebook, The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels. Available in all ebook formats for just $3.99, it's a coach you can use to prepare--and take onstage with you, using a smartphone or tablet.