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5 ways to stop feeling sick when giving a speech

Would you rather face a firing squad than give a speech? If so, try these five presenter tricks to make your talk an opportunity rather than a nightmare.

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Change how you view the audience

How do you visualize your audience? Is it as a sea of blank faces, some with skeptical looks and arms crossed? Stop torturing yourself. Your audience actually wants you to be successful. After all, when you’re in the audience, would you rather the presenter be good or horrible? That’s right, people are pulling for you to give a great speech.

Take a walk just before you speak

When under stress, your body instinctively reacts as though it’s threatened. In the 20 minutes before you’re about to speak, adrenaline — the stress hormone — starts to course through your bloodstream. You feel your heart start to pound, your muscles tightening and your breathing and perspiration rates increasing. By taking a short walk, you process that adrenaline. Just before you’re about to speak, find every opportunity to walk around the room or even make a strategic exit to the restroom.

Breathe before and during

When we stand up to speak, our breaths often become rapid and shallow. The downside is it’s more difficult to pull information from memory when your breathing is shallow. That’s why sometimes when you meet someone on the street and can’t remember her name, then you walk off and the name suddenly pops into your brain. By taking off, you began breathing more deeply.

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Breathing also processes adrenaline, which can cause your hands to shake. Just before you rise to speak, concentrate on slowing and deepening your breathing to combat any increasing tension. Then whenever anyone asks you a question, use the pause in your speaking to slow your breathing — and you’ll find you give better answers.

Get over yourself

As you begin your speech, concentrate fully on your audience. Part of the nervousness at the beginning of your presentation is that you’re focused on yourself, wondering if you’ll do well and if you’ll be able to handle all the questions asked. Turn this around by focusing on your audience, and you’ll at least partially forget your nerves.

Back yourself up

Poor presenters often choose to wing it. Even when you plan to speak up in an informal meeting, take a moment to collect your thoughts and decide what you want to say. This quick marshaling of your most important points can carry you past nervousness.

If it’s a major presentation, conduct at least one dry run. You can do this by giving your presentation to a friend or family member, to yourself in front of the mirror or even to your dog. Then when you give your speech for real, you’ll actually be giving your speech for the second time.

© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you have a career question, email her at Curry is an executive coach and author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM). Follow her through her other posts on, via, or @lynnecurry10 on Twitter.

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