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Eliminate Nerves Through Two Easy Steps

A significant reason people are nervous and don’t speak well in public is that they simply have not practiced enough. There are two easy steps to eliminating nerves in public speaking: practice and practice some more. Indeed, if you have not practiced more than you think is necessary, then what do you really have to be confident about. Daniel Webster, a senator and one of America’s greatest orators said, “I would as soon appear before an audience half-clothed as half-prepared.” You have a choice to make. One is to not practice enough and have a feeling of insecurity that you are about to speak and that you could have done more to get ready. When you are insecure, it is much more difficult to overcome the fight or flight response that confronts all speakers. 

But you could choose another path. Practice until you reach a point of complete satisfaction. Get to a point where you know your material so well that you have a really good feeling about it in the practice setting. Then, when you are about to speak and the fear of public speaking tries to create doubt in you, you can reason through that fear and overcome it by knowing that you could not be better prepared for the moment. Muhammad Ali said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses—behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” 

I love Ali’s words “long before.” If your presentation is on Monday, don’t wait until the weekend before to create it like most people do. Have your final rehearsal on the Friday before. Nothing will give you more confidence than knowing that you are ready days before you have to speak.

In addition, look for chances to practice public speaking. Those opportunities are everywhere. You can offer a short valuable point at the next meeting at your office. At the next lecture that offers a question and answer session, stand up and say something intelligent. 

Another obvious opportunity is to join Toastmasters. There are some wonderful speakers there and a lot to learn. However, I have found that the time commitment involved does not pay off for the opportunities to give presentations. But you ought to investigate your local club. You might find it to be just what you need.

However you get practice, the more you speak in public the more confidence you will gain. That confidence will help you with each subsequent presentation that you give.

Not only should you seek out opportunities to speak in public, but you should practice your presentation in front of family, friends and colleagues to “put something on the line.” Practice in front of someone who will make you nervous. It will help you immensely get ready for the real thing.