Does speaking in front of people make you nervous? Then read this…

Do you become nervous when you have to speak in public, in front of a larger audience? If so, this is something you have in common with most other people. However, there are some scientifically proven tips and tricks to make it a little easier…

You have probably been in the position at some point in your life, when you have had to give a speech, or in some way speak up in front of a large number of people. Whether you have prepared yourself meticulously or you have to make an impromptu speech, you are likely to feel nervous when it is time for you to speak. It is also quite plausible that some negative thoughts about things going horribly wrong might wrap themselves around your mind.

It may comfort you to know that you are not alone. Even the most experienced speaker becomes nervous when he or she is faced with the crowd. The difference is that experienced speakers have done this many times and have learned how to handle it.

Business Insider, an American web-based magazine for business women and men, has listed some scientifically-based words of advice on how to think, act and prepare for the moment all eyes (and ears) are on you. Some of this advice might perhaps not be what you expect:

• Do NOT try to calm down. When you become nervous faced with an important task you might think that the best strategy would be to calm down? This seems to actually not be the best approach, according to research conducted at Harvard Business School. The trick is to instead see your worry as being about something exciting that is about to happen and this way convince yourself that the situation is not a threat but an opportunity. Research showed that those who focused on the task as “exciting and an opportunity” were more successful than those who focused on “calming down”. 

• Talk to yourself in the SECOND or THIRD person. This may seem weird, but according to the research there is a big difference between saying to yourself “Come on, I can do this” and “Come on Fredrik, you can do this”. The University of Michigan did a test on a number of students who were going to give speeches in front of other people. One group were instructed to give themselves pep talks in the first person (“I can do this”) and another group were told to use the second person with their own names (“Fredrik, you can do this”). The latter group were the most successful and the explanation is that we “trick” ourselves into believing that we are giving advice to a friend, which is much easier than to give it to yourself…

• Think POSITIVELY about changes. Researchers at the University of Michigan gave a number of people who found giving speeches very difficult the opportunity to do a course in the art of public speaking. All of the participants were a lot less nervous after the training. However, and this is the interesting thing, those who had been negative to taking the course very soon went back to being nervous when talking in front of others, while those who had been positive about the training continued to feel calmer.

• TRAIN – do not just practise your speech, but also do physical training. Here most researchers agree: physical activity makes you smarter and more alert. When your pulse goes up, more blood streams to your brain which then gets a good amount of oxygen (which in turn is good for your thinking). In addition, serotonin is released, a neurotransmitter which is important both for your ability to communicate and for your mood. If you sweat profusely an hour before you are going to give a public speech, chances are you will sweat a lot less during your speech…

These were a few words of advice and there are certainly more. Some consolation to those of you still feeling nervous at the thought of speaking in front of people might be found in these words by Mark Twain:

“There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” 

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