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How to overcome nerves for public speaking and podcast recording

How to overcome nerves for public speaking and podcast recording

Nerves when you’re speaking in public, recording a podcast or press interview or giving a presentation… what a pain!

They happen to us all.

Even the most experienced of speakers get nervous – yes, even me –  so please know, you’re not alone. 

I’d like to share tips on how to harness and overcome your nerves when speaking or recording. You’ll notice I said harness and not eliminate nerves because, truth bomb, total elimination is not necessary. Or possible. Let’s address that before we get into the tips. 

You need nerves. They’re there for a reason! It’s your body trying to protect you. Thank you, body. Scienc-y bit incoming…

Nerves are caused by the sympathetic nervous system activating in the presence of danger. You get a burst of hormones which leads to an increase of adrenaline in the body preparing you for the fight or the flight response from our cave person days. 

This response causes physical tension and breath-holding which isn’t helpful for your voice but might, once upon a time, have saved you from a sabre-toothed tiger. Now, you’re not in physical danger when you record your podcast or present at work but let’s not be reductive, it might feel like your professional reputation or position is at risk, or even be scared of what your colleagues, peers and audience might think about you. Fair enough!

The point is, these dangers feel very real to us even if it’s not a giant woolly mammoth-shaped danger and that’s okay. You’re a human, it’s ok to feel nervous. 

Can you think of other situations you feel nervous? Have you ever fallen in love, been super excited to see a pal, or faced your fear and ridden a rollercoaster? All the same body reaction. 

Now, does knowing that nerves are normal make it any easier to deal with? Feck no! 

That would be far too easy to fix. But it’s an important story to tell your brain in an attempt to rewrite the reaction so you can harness rather than get overwhelmed by your nerves when you record your podcast or take to the stage.

Let’s raise awareness of how nerves shows up for you – a wee “Nerves Symptom Bingo” game. 

Nod and mmhmm vigorously if ever get these physical symptoms when you’re nervous:

  • increased heart rate
  • sweaty palms
  • nausea or diarrhoea
  • skin flushing
  • the shakes
  • feeling out of control of your body 

And then what about not knowing if your voice will be there for you when you open your mouth because of these nerves? Do you sound like yourself when you speak or do you feel like you sound like someone else? Can you suddenly only think about whether people hear your voice shaking or see your hands trembling? It’s fecking terrifying. And the voice-specific effect of nerves, feeling like you’re out of breath or speaking in a higher pitch, having a little croak or a flip in the voice, it gets a little bit wobbly or even getting your words mixed up or feeling a bit tongue-tied, even can be off-putting. 

You can tackle them in two ways:

  • In advance of the speaking. So if you know you get nervous, there are things you can do well in advance to help yourself.
  • In the moment of speaking, when that rush of adrenaline appears and knocks you off your feet. 

So let’s think about a few things you can do in advance of the public speaking gig or recording session to remind your body that you got this and to feel you’re a little bit more in control.

Tip One: Own your Nerves

Don’t try and hide them more or pretend they don’t happen. They’re gonna happen and that is okay. It’s a “hello, I get nervous and that’s okay, because it’s an instinctive reaction.” You’re not gonna chide yourself or ignore them. You’re gonna put them in the spotlight. Practising seeing them and owning them. Bring your nerves with you. 

Tip Two: Be prepared

If you know you get nervous before recording your podcast, you can literally prepare your body for them. The main effect of nerves is tension – that’s what causes the shakes, breathlessness and high pitch. Prepare your pre-speaking, recording or presentation routine to include lots of physical release work. Spine rolls, semi-supine breath work, side stretches, shoulder rolls, next stretches. Get your entire body released way more than you think you need to. Then make sure you’re including release exercises for your lips, jaw and tongue too. That will help avoid any tongue-tangling situations you might be used to.

For exercises to release nervous tension in the body before you speak, check out episode 12 of The Voice Coach Podcast here. You can find comprehensive exercises for tongue and jaw release here

For part 2 of this blog, grab a cup of tea and click here.

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