Dry mouth. Shaking knees. Quivering hands. Blank mind. We all know these to be part of speaking or performing. They are symptoms of our best ally and worst enemy, fear.
Fear of airing our ideas in front of an audience can't be banished, but it can be managed. The discomfort we feel as our moment at the podium approaches is the result of a flood of adrenaline in our bodies. It's the same flood that athletes experience just before the contest begins. Adrenaline gives us greater speed, greater strength, greater energy. It's our wonderful ally. Athletes consume that surfeit of adrenaline by action—running, jumping, throwing, slugging, yelling. Speaking doesn't allow that kind of action, though we may sometimes feel like running from the podium and the audience. Running away would equalize the adrenaline balance in our bodies, but it wouldn't serve our purpose.
Action is key in dealing with adrenaline. Here are a proven steps for managing adrenaline. Practice these:
(1) Reduce the adrenaline-causing fear by positive self-talk. Remind yourself of successes. Tell yourself that the presentation is going to be a hit with listeners. Don't be timid. Banish doubts. Convince yourself. Positive self-talk really works.
(2) Speak often. The more you speak, the more familiar the surplus of adrenaline in your system will begin to feel.
(3) Act on the rush. Clench and relax the major muscles in your body. It won't be noticeable to listeners, but the physical action will absorb adrenaline.
(4) Acknowledge your excitement by striding briskly to the podium, moving around as much as the setting allows, gesturing with your arms and hands, breathing deeply, and speaking with vigor. Adrenaline-powered energy and enthusiasm will win over your listeners.
Adrenaline! Learn to love it.
© Frank Richardson, 2009.