Beat Nerves at the Beginning of Your Speech

To beat nerves, practice the first minute of your presentation three times as much as the rest. If you practice the entire thing five times, practice the first minute 15 times.

It’s critical to get off to a strong start. You’re nervous. And if you stumble at the beginning, you’re going to go downhill from there. But if you do well at the beginning, you’re going to relax. You’ll gain momentum and you’ll do fine.

A year or so ago, I was about to give a speech to a Rotary Club. And for some reason I was particularly nervous. But I knew my first line: “I’d like to start with a statistic that comes from a researcher at UCLA. . . ” I must have said that line 20 times in my head as I waited for my turn to talk.

I stood up. My heart was pounding. But I got that first line out perfectly. 

The speech went great. 

Practice the first minute over and over. It’ll get you off to a strong start.  And you’ll overcome your nerves.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To Beat Nerves, Try Passing the “Larry King” Test

Larry KingMany people ask me how much they need to rehearse to overcome stagefright.    One answer is “If you can pass the Larry King test, you’ll do fine.”

Turn on the television to The Larry King Show on CNN. Then, with the volume up, try delivering your presentation.   If you can deliver your presentation despite the distraction, then  you should have no problem delivering in spite of your anxiety.

One way to think of stagefright is as a type of distraction to be overcome while speaking.  As you stand to give your presentation, you’re nervous. Your heart is pounding. Your throat is dry.  All of that can wreak havoc with your mental composure.

To learn to overcome these distractions, try creating your own distractions as part of rehearsal.  One such distraction can be a television program like The Larry King Show.  To be able to deliver a presentation with that kind of distraction, you have to know your material cold.  The “Larry King” test will determine whether you know it cold enough to be ready when the nerves hit. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Can Anxiety Be a Compliment to Your Audience?

“Appearing nervous is fine. It conveys to the audience that you care about how well you perform in front of them; that they matter.”

Those are the words of Bill Lane, former speechwriter for GE CEO Jack Welch.  Lane has written a new book entitled “Jacked Up: The Inside Story of How Jack Welch Talked GE Into Becoming the World’s Greatest Company.”

I’m not far into the book. But he has already delivered some nice insights about speaking. I’ve never really thought about the idea that being nervous can actually be a compliment to your audience. But it seems right.

People will forgive nervousness. As Lane says, it shows that you care. But make sure that you also show you care about rehearsing like crazy.  If you’re nervous and deliver a totally unfocused, poorly prepared message, your audience won’t be very forgiving.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Five Ways to Beat Stage Fright

1. Rehearse. Practice your presentation so many times that you could do well if a bomb went off.  I practiced the speech for my son’s Bar Mitzvah 35 times. I was nervous but I did fine.

2. Remember that it’s not about you. It’s about helping your audience. Most presenters are worried about what the audience thinks about them. But presenting is not about you. It’s about how you can help the people you’re speaking to with your ideas.  Whenever I’m really nervous I say to myself “Today, I’m going to do everything I can to help these people.” It helps me. 

3. Walk around the block. Flush out the adrenaline with exercise. Billy Crystal does push ups. 

4. Work the room.  Introduce yourself to as many people as possible and make small talk. “Where are you from?” “How long have you been with your company?” Say anything that will break down the barriers between yourself and the audience.

5. Practice some more.  Don’t even talk to me about your stage fright until you’ve gotten in the habit of practicing extensively.  Can you deliver the presentation with the television on?  If you can nail the presentation with the distraction of The Larry King Show, then you’ll nail it with the distraction of your nerves.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To Beat Nerves: Practice Like Mad. Then Jump

To overcome stage fright, practice like crazy and then go for it.

A female financial executive for a large financial services company once called me for help on a presentation to a major trade conference. She told me she gets so nervous that her mind literally blanks out. “I can’t remember my name,” she told me. “I’m just a terrible speaker. My nerves just overwhelm me.”

We had her rehearse her 10-minute presentation 25 times in the two weeks leading up to the conference. When the day came, she was nervous. But when she stood in front of the group, her practice kicked in like a form of mental muscle memory.  She nailed it.

In fact, she did so well that she has now been identified as one of her firm’s top speakers. She speaks all the time now, always taking care to practice extensively.

There are a million little tips on how to overcome your nerves. But none are better than simply being extremely well-prepared.

Of course, lots of preparation doesn’t mean that you won’t be nervous. It just means that you’ll be ready to do well in spite of your anxiety.  

Going forward in spite of the anxiety can pay huge rewards. That’s something that Paul Potts learned on a huge stage.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email