Tomorrow I’ll be presenting at the Professional Speaking Association’s spring convention and nerves may be an issue. People often ask how I deal with them and the answer is that I don’t, always. It’s not even a big piece of presentation.
Whether you’re about to be interviewed by the press or waiting to go on stage, nerves can be a problem. Here are five points to help you manage them:
- Embrace them. Nerves basically mean you want to give of your very best, make a good impression and deliver what the person or people in front of you want. You’re not arrogant enough to take your ability to do so for granted. Good. Your nerves are a reminder that you respect the audience and want to give them something good.
- One theory a comedy mentor once relayed to me is that we go back to our instincts often. We’re still cavemen underneath it all, so where there’s a crowd, we expect to be facing the same way. At a press conference or anywhere there’s an audience, the crowd faces us. Instinctively, at some level, we think they’re going to kill us. They’re honestly not. Recognising where your nerves come from is one way of combating them.
- A good way to overcome nerves is by preparing. First, make a list of the questions you’re anticipating and make sure you have answers. Second, make a list of all the stuff you’re hoping they won’t ask – and have an answer for those too. If they don’t come up, that’s fine.
- Remember the people asking the questions may not have a particular agenda other than finding stuff out. I once did a media training session in which I kicked off by asking one of the delegates: “Tell me about yourself and your organisation.” She freaked out, asked to stop the interview, and asked why I wanted to know anything about her. In fact I was just warming up, a name and job title would have answered my question perfectly, but in her mind there was a dangerous agenda being set. Watch out for overthinking and assuming there’s going to be this big agenda before you’ve even started.
- Don’t give interviews or presentations for which you’re unprepared. Now, “prepared” could mean a bit of deliberate prep for the interview backed by 25 years in your industry, but make sure you’re the genuine expert in what you’re speaking about. The people to whom you’re speaking will then want to hear from you and no matter how hostile they may look (and a straight face from someone who’s just paying attention can look very hostile if you’re feeling tense), they’re mostly on your side.