You have been preparing for your speech for days. You rehearsed it many times over your head and you have been waiting for this moment, yet when the Toastmaster announces your name, all of sudden you feel gazillion butterflies swarming in your stomach making you very uncomfortable. You look around nervously. Out of nowhere, you have sweaty palms, your hands are shaking, your heart beats faster than normal, your mouth feels dry, and no word comes out of your mouth when you try to speak. All you want is to run away.
Does this sound familiar to you? I hope not.
However, if you are one of those people who gets nervous before presenting a speech and are suffering from the “butterfly effect,” there are things you can do to calm yourself before you begin to speak. Over time, I have gathered steps from many sources to help calm me when presenting a speech. I am going to share them with you.
Keep in mind sometimes nervous energy can be a good thing because it can be converted into an enthusiastic speech. Therefore, having a little bit of the butterfly effect helps you be more prepared and focused. On the other hand, if the butterfly effect stands in a way of your performance, you can try the steps to calm yourself before speaking.
Stretch: This may sound odd, but stretching may release the tension in your body. So stretch before you are going to present a speech. Also, keep in mind that making different sounds, before a speech, helps to relax your tongue, allowing you to speak smoothly.
Arrive Early: Arrive early and go up front to the podium. Look around and get used to the stage. If possible, rehearse your speech at the actual place you are planning to give your speech. Mark three mental spots in the audience (left, middle, and right) to have eye contact. This will help you to keep eye contact with all sides of the audience. By doing this, you will get more comfortable with the place.
Check your visual aids and your microphone: To avoid last-minute panic attacks, it is a good idea to check and see if everything is working fine. Unless you are a seasoned speaker, these mundane things may set you off track quickly.
Get to know your audience: Talk to the audience members before giving a speech. This may relax you and you will become more comfortable with your audience. Having humorous conversations or listening to them and laughing will also change your mood.
Imagine a positive outcome: Imagine that people are well responding to your speech and visualize a standing ovation. Once you get to know the audience, this may be easy to imagine. Having confidence about the outcome will help calm your nerves.
Pump your fist several times to release tension before you name is announced. This will release the nervous energy from your body and will relax you more.
Take a deep breath: When you hear your name, take three deep breaths and exhale slowly.
Drink a sip of water: To avoid dry mouth issues on the stage, it is always good to sip some water before you begin your speech.
Finally, do not fight the nervousness on the podium. Admit that you are nervous if that helps you. The audience will admire your brevity. Smile at the audience. Look around slowly before you begin. Focus on your speech.
When you are nervous, you tend to speak faster so be conscious of that and focus on your pauses. Slow down where appropriate.
If you think you have the butterfly effect you can try the above steps and see if these work for you. I have used all of these at different times. You can adapt what works for you and drop the rest. Practicing these will allow you learn how to control your butterflies, sweaty palms, dry mouth, and the other symptoms that come on your way when you are nervous.