If you get nervous speaking to your boss, making a presentation or speaking up in a meeting, you are most definitely not alone. How can you prevent your jelly legs, sweaty hands, stammering voice or mushy brain from spoiling the great impression you want to make? Here are some ideas:
Remember that your body language is a dead give-away of nervousness. To look cool, calm and self-possessed, try to remain still without being stiff. Avoid shifting around or constantly moving your weight from one foot to the other when you’re standing or jiggling your leg or twisting your chair from side to side when you’re sitting.
Avoid fiddling with a pen and constantly grooming your hair. Keep your hand movements open and relaxed, not extreme, jerky, sudden or quick. Sit or stand straight and hold your head up, and look people in the eye when you’re speaking to them.
When nerves strike, you’ll probably start breathing quickly and shallowly, and high up in your chest or even in your throat. That works against you because it stops oxygen reaching your brain and your brain needs oxygen to think clearly. It also weakens your voice and causes your words to come in awkward fits and starts. Relax by taking three deep breaths. This calms you and delivers oxygen to your brain so you can say something sharp and interesting. It also strengthens your voice, making you sound confident.
Speaking of your voice, relax your throat to lower your pitch to sound more credible. A high-pitched voice makes you sound nervous, overly excited, immature and/or unconfident, not to mention shrill, while deeper voices sound more confident and competent. And avoid the upward inflections. Statements that sounds like questions lessen your believability.
Take care to speak clearly so that people don’t have to strain to hear you–most won’t bother. Speak from deep in your diaphragm rather than high in your throat so that your voice has volume and richness.
And smile. A sincere smile, as distinct from a nervous grimace, releases endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ chemicals, that can raise your confidence. Plus, smiles are catching, so you might set up a ‘virtuous circle’. Plus, a smile makes you look more interesting and approachable. Plus, when you’re smiling, more people want to listen to you. All of which puts your nerves on the back seat.
Anyone can hide their nerves. You may need to concentrate to do so at first, and keep reminding yourself what to do, but after a while, cool, calm and confident body language soon becomes second nature.