If the idea of standing up in front of an audience and giving a speech (even a short speech) scares you to death, you’re not alone. In fact, most surveys will tell you that people are more comfortable with the idea of dying than they are about speaking in public.
However, there are plenty of things you can do to minimize the nervous feelings you have prior to giving an acceptance speech. Here are six sure-fire ways to reduce your anxiety and boost your confidence.
1. Put it on paper. Psychologists believe that writing your fears down on a piece of paper can be an empowering experience. If you’re nervous about speaking in front of a group, write it down, look at it, think about it, and then crumple it up and toss it in the trashcan.
2. Visit the venue. One of the best ways to calm your nerves and gain a feeling of confidence is to visit the room in which you’re going to give your speech beforehand and get comfortable being “on stage.” This is especially true if you’re presenting somewhere for the first time like a hotel meeting room or a banquet hall.
I recommend that you actually stand where you’ll be giving the speech and picture the audience sitting in front of you. Then get a feel for the lighting, the podium, the size and layout of the dais (stage), etc. This will go a long way to embolden you.
3. Be prepared. It is paramount that you know your speech like the back of your hand. You don’t necessarily have to memorize it (in fact, that’s not wise), however, you need to be familiar with the words you want to say.
Motivational speaking legend Zig Ziglar, after 40 years in the speaking business, once told a journalist that he prepared four hours for a 25-minute radio interview knowing full well that he was not going to be asked anything he had never heard before. Nothing goes further in soothing public speaking jitters like knowing exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Be sure that you’re so comfortable with the first line of your speech that it just rolls off your tongue without even having to think.
4. Hold your breath. Here’s a breathing exercise you can do just prior to giving your acceptance speech that will help calm your nerves. Take a deep breath through your nose and hold it for 5 seconds. Then let your breath out of your mouth in short, controlled (quiet) spurts until all the air is out of your lungs.
To do it right, it should take about 10-15 “mini-exhales” to get all the air out. Then repeat this two more times. You’ll be amazed how relaxed it makes you feel.
5. Clench your fists. Another exercise similar to #4 above is to clench your fists several times right before you get up to speak. Here’s how you do it.
Clench both fists as tightly as you can, hold it for 10 seconds and then let go. Wait five seconds and than repeat this exercise two more times.
This simple technique has the power to release muscle tension and thereby help you relax. Plus, it’s something you can do sitting around the table waiting for your name to be announced.
6. Watch what you eat. Believe it or not, the foods you eat can affect the outcome of your speech starting with orange juice. (It’s not just for breakfast anymore.) The vitamin C found in orange juice has been shown to lower stress hormones in less than 15 minutes.
Plus, foods that contain high amounts of tryptophan like turkey, nuts and cheese contain an amino acid that helps people feel less anxious. If nature’s willing to give you a hand, grab hold of it.
Also, try to avoid caffeinated beverages because they can make you even more jumpy than the natural adrenaline rush you get from public speaking.
No matter what happens up at the podium, keep in mind that your audience cannot tell how nervous you are on the insides. In public speaking seminars when people have a chance to see themselves on video giving a speech, many are surprised to see that they do not appear nearly as nervous as they felt.
And unless you give your audience a reason to think otherwise, they will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume the best about you.
So, try out these nerve-reducing ideas and rise up to your audience’s hopeful expectations. Learn how to write an acceptance speech in less than 60 minutes and discover the secret to confidently delivering your speech from a St. Louis Public Speaking Training expert.