Some of the best presenters and performers admit to being nervous about performing in front of an audience. Everyone from superstar music performer Beyoncé Knowles to Rugby World Cup winning Dan Carter have spoken about why being nervous about 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 get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous, I know I’m going to have a good show.
– Beyonce Knowles
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 it’s a sure sign that their presentation may not succeed.
Being over-confident can often translate to boring, uninspiring and a disconnected presenter.
1. Being Nervous About Performing Means This Is Important To You
Very often people perceive nerves as a weakness.
But what if we think about this differently?
What if we flip this on its head and think about it completely the opposite way?
I say that feeling nervous 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.
Being nervous will remove complacency in my experience. If the stakes are high you will prepare with more focus, you will rehearse more, you will put in the graft, you will give your all to the preparation.
What happens then?
You will reap the rewards!
A healthy dose of nerves will keep you on your toes, keep you focused and ultimately lead to a better presentation.
3. Being Nervous About Performing Helps Realise Your True Potential
If you feel 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 in life.
Here’s the thing.
People who do the same thing every day, who are afraid to try new things probably do not suffer from nerves.
They never feel nervous because they never actually challenge themselves, and that I believe is a bigger weakness than being nervous. I think that feeling nervous is a sign that we’re actually living life to the fullest.
And that has to be worth something.
4. Nervous About Performing? It’s Not Nerves, It’s Excitement!
Would you believe anxiety and excitement are not that dissimilar on a physiological level?
The heart pounds faster, cortisol surges, and the body prepares for action in both cases. Our brain can very quickly switch between both.
In contrast, the brain has greater difficulty switching to a feeling of calmness and relaxation.
Excitement suggests there is something to look forward to, whereas anxiety suggests it’s something to be feared.
Harvard Business School psychologist Alison Wood Brooks has researched what is known as “anxiety reappraisal.”
If we’re nervous about performing but choose to consciously reframe nerves as excitement instead of anxiety or fear, she says, our performance can be improved.
So if we start putting a positive association with those physical feelings (heart pounding, palms sweating), we will no longer fear our presentation, but will present better as a result.
Instead of attempting to calm down our nerves we should be harnessing them. It takes practice but it’s certainly an interesting challenge to explore.
5. Nerves Are a Sign You’re Prepared For Action
In a 2013 study in the Clinical Psychological Science 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!
There is nothing wrong with having butterflies in your stomach, provided you make them fly in formation.
– Jon Jones
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.
The day I lose my stage-fright is the day I will stop acting.
– Sir Laurence Olivier
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.
Thank you for reading! Please share your thoughts and join the conversation.
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
ConfidentSpeak is a S.T.E.M. Specialist Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We have worked with leading Irish and international companies and executives. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.
ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.