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Volume 1, Issue 29

Calming Nerves before a Presentation

Is there anything that people can do when their nerves get the best of them during public speaking? A reporter from Inc. magazine recently interviewed a pair of communications experts for the answer.

Speaking coach Olivia Mitchell says that nervous public speakers can employ cognitive behavior therapy to calm their nerves. She explains that most speakers get nervous simply by thinking negatively—"Oh my God! They can see I'm nervous. This is just awful. I just want to get through this presentation."

"You're putting so much pressure on yourself, you can't perform," Mitchell says. "If I realize that I'm getting into that mode, I'll say, 'Okay, this is not so useful. What am I really trying to achieve here? What is critical and what is not? I want to do my best, I still have a goal of how I want to perform, but I'm not going to beat myself up if I make some mistakes.'"

Sian Beilock, University of Chicago psychology professor and author of Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, offers a few more tips to prevent cracking under the pressure of public speaking:

  • Think about what you want to say, not what you don't want to say.
  • Know what you know. "If you have memorized the introduction to your speech or what you are going to say in its entirety, just go with it and try not to think too much about every word," Beilock says. "If you didn't memorize it, pause before a key transition to allow yourself time to regroup."
  • Remind yourself that you have the background to succeed.

This article is from the Jan. 30, 2012 issue.

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