Nervous about performing? Here's four things everyone needs to know
As we’ve already noted, some of the world’s best presenters and performers admit to being nervous about getting out there in front of an audience.
Everyone from superstar music performer Beyoncé to Rugby World Cup winning Dan Carter have spoken about why being nervous about their performance have spurred them to their greatest performances.
If you suffer from nerves, here are five things to set your mind at ease … and stop your pulse from racing!
There is no question. Nerves can be debilitating.
With so much available to readers on how to control nerves, I felt it was important to share my experience of nerves from a different perspective.
By understanding a little more about nerves we can start to use them to our advantage.
I am a big believer that it is normal and healthy to feel nerves before any presentation. Some of the best presenters and performers I have worked with will admit to being nervous in front of an audience.
When clients tell me they “don’t get nervous”, I worry, why?
Because in my mind that is a sure sign their presentation may not succeed.
Being over-confident can often translate to boring, uninspiring and disconnected⸺and no speaker, at any level, wants to be associated with those labels.
1. Being nervous about performing means this is important to you
Often people perceive nerves as a weakness.
But as we’ve already shown in this guide, it pays to think about this differently.
What if we flip this on its head and think about it completely the opposite way?
I am convinced that feeling nerves is not a weakness, but the best sign that what you are doing is important to you.
Think about the last job interview or presentation you had.
If you were nervous, you also probably had a clear focus, a drive to succeed and a clear intention.
That counts for a lot.
2. Nerves mean you will strive to be the best you can be
Nerves mean the stakes are high.
You don’t want to screw it up.
In my experience, the one sure thing that happens when someone is experiencing performance nerves is that complacency gets completely removed from the equation.
Complacency is often our worst enemy in business, work and life.
If the stakes are high, you are very likely to prepare with that bit more focus.
You will rehearse a little more, put in a little more graft. Your preparation is unlikely to be undercooked.
And as a wise person once said, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail.”
Experiencing nerves removes complacency, and once complacency is gone, preparation is almost certain to receive the focus it requires.
And then, you are so much more likely to reap the rewards.
A healthy dose of nerves keeps you on your toes, keeps you focused and ultimately leads to a better presentation, pitch or performance.
3. Nerves pushes you into new territory
If you’re feeling nervous, then that means you’re not being safe.
When we try new things, when we make changes, we will always experience nerves⸺but if we don’t try new things, we will never know what we’re really capable of.
Here’s the thing.
People who do the same thing every day, people who are hesitant or even afraid to try new things probably do not suffer from nerves.
They never feel nervous because they never actually challenge themselves, and not challenging yourself is, I believe, a bigger weakness than being nervous.
Experiencing nerves is a sign that we’re actually living life to the fullest.
And that has to be worth something.
4. Forewarned is forearmed
In a 2013 study in the Clinical Psychological Science journal, half of the participants were told prior to having to present that they’d probably feel nervous about performing, but that sweaty palms and racing hearts, sweating were signs that their bodies were prepping for action.
The other half received no information.
Participants briefed about the benefits of nerves were less distracted by them and performed better.
So if we know to expect feelings of nervousness we can embrace them and harness the energy.
Conclusion: Embrace the Butterflies!
Nerves certainly mean an element of discomfort – no argument there!
We all know the feeling – the heart is pounding, palms moist, mouth like sandpaper. Our body’s natural response is thrown into overdrive.
What can happen is that we focus on the response – pounding heart, sweating palms – and get distracted from the task at hand.
If we are able to keep ourselves from turning our focus in on ourselves, then nervousness can be a helpful tool. Focusing on your surroundings and your audience during a presentation, rather than on the thoughts inside you, is the key.
With nerves, the adrenaline gives you a boost of energy. Actors use the adrenaline rush to take their performances to a higher level. This can be seen in their physical and vocal delivery – presenters can also harness this.
So, all in I think we need to accept that nerves are normal and natural. Yes there is discomfort and there are many ways to control them, but it is useful to challenge ourselves to look at nerves from a different perspective.