Category “Managing Nervousness”


I feel so anxious before I talk, what can I do? Once I stand up, I forget what I planned to say.

FIRST, prepare yourself before you speak.

One time I was scuba diving in very big waves. When I jumped off the boat under the water, I heard a loud swishing sound in my ears. I started to panic thinking the regulator was broken—but then I realized that sound was myself, hyperventilating. I had not paid attention that I was hyperventilating before jumping in the water. It took me at least 15 minutes under the water to calm down. I promised myself that the next time I went scuba diving, I would be sure I was calm before I jumped in the water.

Don’t do like I did and jump in the water before you are calm and relaxed. Instead, prepare yourself to speak with a breathing technique you find useful. Practice this type of breathing as you await your turn to talk. Do your breathing technique when you are walking to a meeting. You don’t have to be sitting in a quiet place. Think you can find a better relaxation technique than breathing? Listen to Dr. Andrew Weil: “The single most effective relaxation technique I know is conscious regulation of breath.”

SECOND, practice diaphragm breathing:

  • If alone, put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
  • Inhale through your nose for a couple of seconds. You don’t have to make noise. Feel your stomach expand with your hand.
  • Exhale through your mouth. Feel your stomach go in. (If alone purse your lips a bit like sipping on a straw.)

THIRD, practice inhale and exhale for a certain number of counts.

One way to calm down is to count your breaths. Sit down in a quiet place and close your eyes. Or practice when sitting with your eyes open in a meeting. Inhale through your nose, count until your lungs are full but not uncomfortably so. Then, exhale through your nose and count, trying to make the inhalation and exhalation the same. It helps a little to control the exhalation by constricting the muscles in your throat. After several breaths, increase the count for the exhalation until ideally it is at a ratio of 1 to 2—that is, if you inhale for 4 counts, then exhale for 8. Repeat 10 times, each time allowing your body to relax on each exhalation. See this video for an example.

How about you find a breathing meditation of 10 minutes and listen twice a day? Can you find one yourself? See below.

  1. Article – Breathing Basics: The How And The Why
  2. Article – 3 Reasons Everyone Should Try Alternate Nostril Breathing   MY FAVORITE!!!
  3. Apps – Best Deep Breathing Apps (4 to choose from)

Getting More Sleep

At least half the participants in my Get to the Message workshop raise their hands when I ask, “How many of you slept less than six hours last night?” What’s wrong with this? Here are some characteristics of people who do not sleep enough. Many sleep-deprived people have racing thoughts, talk rapidly, are easily distracted, in a state of mania, and have trouble focusing on the details and big picture at the same time.

What do sleep-deprived presenters do? They create too many detailed slides that do not present a cohesive message. They work really hard but the end result is an unpersuasive, rambling set of slides. They cannot answer these important questions: What story are you telling? What are your three key messages? How does each slide advance your story and messages?

Don’t waste your time going around in circles with your presentation—instead, sleep so you can be focused.

And if you haven’t had enough sleep but are putting together a presentation? Stop! Don’t dive right into the slides. First organize your key messages and storyline, and then create the slides.

Sleep Checklist–Do One This Week

  1. Turn off all electronic devices an hour before you go to sleep.
  2. Do something calming before bed: deep breathing, stretches, a cup of herbal tea.
  3. Take a walk outside.
  4. Create a short bedtime ritual, for example, a cup of tea, four minutes stretching, five minutes meditating.

For more ideas: Huffington Post “37 Science-Backed Tips for Better Sleep Tonight”

Manage Your Presentation Stress, Don’t Just Worry

Here’s some advice from a psychologist, Sian Beilock, on how to perform better under pressure. Let’s apply it to your worries about an upcoming presentation.

Take a walk: Have you ever been very anxious or upset and then taken a walk? It probably calmed you down. After your walk you’ll feel calmer and wonder why you were so upset in the first place.

Change your self-talk: Instead of telling yourself; “I am so anxious. I hope I do OK,” say, “I am excited and I can feel it. This means I’m going to sound energetic.”

Write down your worries before an event: This gets them out of your mind. I suggest you write them down when you first learn you will be giving the presentation that worries you.

Sian’s book: How the Body Knows Its Mind



Time: “I don’t have time to put this together.” Make a plan to get it done.
Help: “I don’t have all the information.” Write down who can actually give you information or guide you to it.
Experience: “I’ve never talked in front of this many people.” Find a coach to give you some pointers, or go on line and look up advice for speaking to 300 people.
PowerPoint: “I really don’t know how to make effective slides.” Find someone in your company to help or hire a PowerPoint expert. Compare costs.
Travel: “I hope the plane arrives on time.” Never book the last plane out–you’ll be in for guaranteed stress.


Rehearsal: “I never really rehearse my talks. I wing it.” Rehearse many times alone, and with colleagues or a presentation coach. IT WILL CALM YOU DOWN.
Logistics: “I don’t know what the room will be like.” Ask to see the room when you arrive or get there early enough to scope out the room.
Sleep: “I don’t have time to sleep.” The studies are out there. To be effective you need at least 7 hours of sleep–and 8 is even better.

Visualize Your Success

You need to practice visualization before a presentation.

First a quote from the author Olivia Fox Cabane of The Charisma Myth.

“I find that doing even thirty seconds of visualization makes a substantial difference to my performance. It greatly affects how charismatic I am on stage.”

I do use her visualization technique when speaking. Beyond my work presentations, it was especially useful when I was the MC for a wedding and when I had to give a eulogy. In both situations I felt in charge of my body and emotions and was able to connect to the audience.

Better yet I’m now using it when I go out Argentine Tango Dancing. For the last three times I have gone out dancing I have done a two minute visualization of the evening. My experiences these three times have surpassed any other dance experiences. I have danced with dancers who have never asked me. I have had amazing dances…been kissed on the check–been told I was fantastic etc. etc.

I invite you to have your own experience of using visualization. Buy her book and try it out. Your successes will amaze you and your audiences!!!

Where is Your Concentration?

From self-conscious to audience-conscious

Thomas Hayes, a visionary, author, and motivational speaker, shares how he manages his nerves. With an iron will forged out of the tragic experience of losing a leg to cancer in childhood, Hayes has a compelling history to share with his audiences. Here are his secrets to being present in the moment with his audience.

What is the best way you have learned to channel your nervousness?

When I am waiting I focus myself in the moment. I watch what is happening. I look at the lighting. I sense how the sound system is working. I watch where the audience’s attention is: on themselves, on the food? Are they preoccupied? I take all of my attention away from myself.

What is your secret for calming down and being with your audience?

Intention is my secret. When I make it my intention to give something to the audience, then I have all the power. If your intention as a speaker is to receive, then you are trying to get something. You have given the audience all the power. When I watch an open-mike night, I see young comedians who are always thinking about themselves. They are focused on receiving laughs and applause. They have to shift from receiving to giving.

What is your one sentence about being with your audience?

Change your attention and shift from self-conscious to audience-conscious.

Talk to Yourself to Calm Your Nerves

“How You Self-Talk to Yourself Matters!!!”

People who referred to themselves as “you” or by their own names while silently talking to themselves in preparation for a five-minute speech were subsequently calmer and more confident and performed better on the talk than people who had referred to themselves as “I” or “me” (3.6 versus 3.2 on a combined five-point scale, in the view of judges), says a team led by Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan. The research participants who talked to themselves in the second or third person also felt less shame afterward. By distancing us from ourselves, the use of the second and third person in internal monologues enables us to better regulate our emotions, the researchers say.

See two links

Short version

Long version

“Effective speaking is more of a subtraction process than an additive process. It’s more about subtracting the things that are getting in our way of connecting with the audience. Things like busy hands, excessive movement, or a monotone voice”

-Bill Gove via Steve Siebold

Know Your Inner Dialogue

You have practiced out loud. You feel confident. You know the subject. You have answered the questions you may be asked. But you are still uneasy. Often you feel good before a presentation but part way through, you lose confidence and just want to get it over with and sit down.

Sometimes I see this phenomenon with the people I coach. I watch them closely and then ask, “Do you have a voice that is critiquing everything you are saying and telling you that what you just said is not exactly correct?” The presenter looks surprised and responds, “Yes.” Then I say, “This is what I like to call the overworked helper.”

I go on to explain that this voice feels it is helping. But, when you are in front of a group of people, it is only making it more difficult for you to relax and connect to your audience. The voice was essential during your practice, but when you are doing the talk for real, it must take a back-row seat and stop talking. You need a different voice that says, “Yes, you are doing wonderful. Yes, that was a good point you made.” Or more ideally, you need to still all inner voices and just have quiet inside.

Voices in your head? What is she talking about? Many of you reading this will know exactly what I mean. In a wonderful book called Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model, author Robert Swartz explains, “The point is that we have ongoing, complex relationships with many different inner voices, thought patterns, and emotions that are similar to relationships we have with people.” I see these voices in action as I watch people present.

Start to pay attention to your inner voices when you talk in front of a group of people. Are you hearing from the “overworked helper” or the “constant judge”? Neither one is good to have activated when you are speaking. Amazingly enough, when I have suggested to presenters that they simply ask their disruptive inner voice to pipe down, to stop judging and making sarcastic comments, the voice does calm down.

Let me add one caveat. If you have not practiced out loud and if you are unprepared, I doubt this voice will calm down. It knows you have not done the necessary preparation and is actually trying to help you. But during the actual talk is not the time for it to start coaching you with incessant criticism.

So do yourself and your nerves a favor. Check in with this voice several days before a talk and find out what it has to say. Just ask, “Are you satisfied? Have I prepared well enough? What else should I do?” You may be amazed that it will answer you. Do what it suggests and you will discover that you can be calm, energized, and confident when speaking. You owe that to yourself – and to your inner critic.

12 Most Tongue-in-Cheek Reasons Not to Worry About Your Audience

When my clients are nervous about speaking in front of an audience, they tend to exaggerate their own importance to their listeners. Here is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek list to help you realize that, while you are in front of your audience, they each have their own world going on while listening to you.

  1. They need sleep: At least one-quarter of your audience members are sleep deprived. All they hope is that you’ll keep them awake.
    They are saying: Please be interesting enough so I don’t fall asleep and embarrass myself.
  2. They walked into the room already overwhelmed with data: As long as you don’t add to their confusion trying to assimilate and sort too much information, they will be content.
    They are thinking: Please don’t confuse my brain with more data that doesn’t really make sense to me.
  3. They’ve got to use your information: Some people have to do something with your information and they’re hoping you’ll make it easy for them to figure it out.
    They are begging you: Please – just clearly tell me the next steps.
  4. They are relieved they’re not the ones presenting: Many listeners are just glad they’re not up there having to talk. You can do almost anything as long as you don’t call on them.
    They are pleading: Please just leave me alone. Don’t embarrass me in front of these people.
  5. They want you to do well: Some people feel responsible for what goes on around them and are hoping you don’t act so nervous because that will make them very uncomfortable.
    They are anxiously wishing: Please behave so I don’t have to figure out how to rescue you.
  6. They are hungry: Some people are plotting how to get to the other side of the room for a chocolate-chip cookie. This also might keep them awake.
    They are distracted: Please just give us a two-minute stretch so I can bolt to those cookies.
  7. They need to go to the restroom: They are praying for some type of pause in your topic or someone asking a question so they can sneak out.
    They are hoping: Please take questions so I can unobtrusively get out of here.
  8. They want to show off, not listen to you: A couple of people want to impress someone in the room. They are waiting to interrupt you and show how smart they are.
    They are impatiently judging: Is this the right time to make my point?
  9. They’ve got to report on your presentation: Several are seriously listening as they have to report back on your talk’s content. They’re trying to figure out what to say back in the team meeting.
    They are wishing: Please make it easy for me to report in my staff meeting next week.
  10. They are daydreaming: Some are thinking about their new car, the baby at home, the great dinner they had last weekend, or their upcoming vacation.
    They are enjoying themselves: It’s great to have some time to daydream.
  11. They are generating new ideas: Some people’s brains are going overtime with new ideas you have given them.
    They are eagerly waiting to stand up and say: I’ve got a better idea about this situation. Here it is.
  12. Your boss is hoping you are successful: Your boss wants you to come across as smart, on top of the topic and confident.
    The boss is anxiously thinking: Yes, that’s it! Keep making the team look good. Just don’t goof up too badly.Given the nature of the fairly typical audience mix I just described, you really don’t have to worry about how much attention they are truly giving you – except, of course, for the people who have to report back or use your information. You may be standing in front of them, but the chances that are you are center stage inside their minds are maybe 50/50. So the next time you start getting anxious about a presentation, remember that your listeners have their own agendas going on. You will be able to relax, which of course will give you more confidence – and then you will capture the attention of more of your audience!

Use Your Will Power, Recuperate: Don’t Give Up

Recuperate and keep moving towards your goals and dreams, do not let obstacles stop you In a presentation when something unexpected occurs you can’t look at your audience and say, “Sorry, I’m having trouble as this is not what I planned. I just want to stop.” You must use your will power and go on like Nike’s motto, “Just do it.” Isn’t that what life is all about?

This came to me last night. I was on my way to a BUILD event in Boston. BUILD’s mission is to use entrepreneurship to excite and propel disengaged low-income students through high school to college success. All the 100 students in California went on to college!! They now have 100 youth in Boston who will create a product, build a business and sell the product—for real!! I printed the evite with the address as well as Google directions. My GPS did not have the address but I told myself, “No problem you have printed directions.” Well, one hour later (should have taken me 20 minutes) I am still driving around the street. So far I’ve asked directions from a porter at a hotel, a taxi driver, two policemen and three pedestrians. I was about ready to quit. This was not the evening I planned. Then I asked a bus driver. He says, “Follow me.” I do. Finally he stops the bus, gets out, points to the building and smiles. Best bus ride I ever had!!

I arrive just as the last the student presentation concludes. Frustration mounted and I felt like turning around and leaving. I’d already expended enough energy trying to get there. BUT I stayed and met some wonderful people with great ideas for a product I’m creating as well as learning more about BUILD. It was one of the best networking experiences I’ve had.

Remember, whatever situation you are in, you always have time to use your will power, recuperate and make it positive. Don’t let your unmet expectations that did not happen stop you from recuperating and finding ways to make the experience positive for you and for whoever is around you.

I’d love to hear an experience, where you used your will power, recuperated and made the experience a success.

“To assert your willpower is simply to make up your mind that you want something, and then refuse to be put off.” – Phillip Cooper

Prepare for Your Presentation Like a Tango Dancer

Prepare for Your Presentation Like a Tango Dancer

Presenting is like dancing tango: prepare so you’ll be asked to perform again!

Whether leading or following, the dancer should not depend on the partner for balance. The same is true for presenters. We should not depend on our audience to motivate us, spark our enthusiasm and keep us energized.

How does an Argentine tango dancer prepare? Well, surprisingly, after going through the basic steps, many famous dancers have told me that the most important exercise is to practice without a partner! In other words, the dancer needs to be able to do the moves by him or herself without relying on another person. Read the rest of this entry »