I hate public speaking. Really, I hate microphones. I've had more than one awkward moment in front of some pretty important people while holding a microphone in my hand. And once, I'm pretty sure the crowd was rooting for me to fail.
Chris Anderson, head of TED, reassures me by phone that all audiences are sympathetic toward nervous public speakers. He should know. Anderson has helped hundreds of people — famous and not-so-famous — prepare to deliver speeches to live audiences in the thousands and digital audiences in the millions. And now, he's distilled all that knowledge into a book, TED Talks: The Official Guide to Public Speaking.
When I got my hands on a copy, I flipped immediately to the section on controlling your nerves. Ahead, we've reprinted the sage advice from one of the world's most famous public-speaking instructors. I'm still not over my dislike of microphones, but at least now I know some coping mechanisms for next time I have to face my fear.
Fear triggers our ancient fight-or-flight response. Your body is coiled up chemically, ready to strike or flee. This is measurable physically by a huge rise in adrenaline coursing through your bloodstream.
Adrenaline’s great for powering a sprint to safety across the savannah, and it can certainly bring energy and excitement to your stage presence. But too much of it is a bad thing. It can dry up your mouth and tighten your throat. Its job is to turbo-charge your muscles, and if your muscles are not being used, the adrenaline rush may start them twitching, hence the shaking associated with extreme cases of nerves.
Some coaches advise medication in such cases, typically beta-blockers, but the downside is that they can deaden your tone. There are plenty of other counterstrategies to turn all that adrenaline to your advantage. Ahead, read what I recommend.
Excerpted from TED TALKS: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking © 2016 by Chris Anderson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.