“I’m an experienced business person; I’m not supposed to be nervous. There must be something wrong with me.”
If you’ve said this to yourself, guess what - you are not alone! As a matter of fact, 90% of people I work with, including CEO’s, Presidents and VPs of companies tell me they feel nervous speaking in public at different times for different reasons.
It’s a total myth that because you are a competent professional in your area of expertise, there’s something wrong with you if you get nervous before a presentation or speaking event.
The question becomes is it a pesky yet manageable annoyance or does it interfere with your ability to speak and perform effectively? Another question you might be asking yourself is - what can I do about it?
A great place to begin is to identify your Nervousness Profile. Over the years, I discovered that people who get nervous speaking in front of groups fall into four general types categorized by when they start getting jittery. These profiles, explained in depth in “Speak without Fear”, came to light after working with thousands of people in my speaking programs as a speaking coach and also dealing with performance jitters myself as a professional actress. As an actor, I struggled with bouts of performance anxiety. Although it didn’t interfere with getting jobs, it did interfere with my enjoyment of it. So I took a break from acting and went on a quest to learn how to manage the nerves associated with performance. Fortunately I overcame it and all that I discovered served me well both as an actress and again when public speaking became my new direction.
Later, when successful business professionals in my speaking programs who thought they weren’t supposed to be nervous and just “tough it out” displayed signs of the jitters, I encouraged them to explore the root cause of their fears and learn solid techniques to address them head on. One of the pleasures of my business is the continuous feedback I receive from people who are breaking through fears and experiencing new found speaking confidence.
What’s Your Nervous Profile?
Here are the four types at a glance:
#1. The Avoider. (When: At the mere suggestion of a public speaking situation)
Avoiders experience the highest degree of anxiety at the prospect of public speaking because they will move heaven and earth to stay out of the spotlight, no matter how this may damage them personally or professionally.
#2. The Anticipator (When: From the moment the speaking event is scheduled)
Otherwise known as the “worrier,” the Anticipator takes the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” to a whole new level. Whether their skill level is high or low, they are consumed with every aspect of their upcoming speaking engagement or presentation; this extends right up to, during, and sometimes even after the event itself.
#3. The Adrenalizer (When: Just before the event)
Sometimes referred to as the Flight or Flight Syndrome, this manifestation means it’s not necessarily that something is wrong with you, although it sure might look and feel like it, but that adrenaline is seizing control of you. Like an athlete, gearing up for a race it’s common to feel extra energy as you build momentum towards an event.
#4. The Improviser (When: During the actual event)
Improvisers like to “wing it” They tend to think, “Comedians do it.. So can I.” Well, I can assure you professional comedians try out all of their material ahead of time. Improvising, or winging it, foments an anxiety that keeps building the more you improvise until, in some cases, your nervousness type shifts from the Improviser column to the Avoider column.
Remedies for all types vary.
For example, Improvisers generally need to place more focus on preparation and rehearsal (a little goes a long way!) whereas Anticipators tend to over prepare and benefit from stepping back and trusting they will do a good job when it’s time.
Adrenalizers need to pace themselves or risk overshooting the mark prior to the event. Avoiders can turn things around by first addressing the underlying cause of their discomfort and learning the basics. Then start small and gradually increase group sizes.
In any case, we have dispelled the myth that you are not supposed to be nervous. As in life, if you know where to place your attention, you can take charge of the situation and command the stage!
Copyright © 2015 by Ivy Naistadt - All rights reserved