Imagine spending months preparing a speech for a big gig.
Perhaps there will be hundreds or even thousands of people there.
Staring at you.
Expecting something spectacular.
And yet, you may have noticed how hard it is these days to keep people’s attention spans.
Most speakers struggle with their audience taking out their phones less than halfway through.
So of course it’s understandable if you have a bad case of nerves. Public speaking tips can actually help for this when you’re about to go on stage.
Below are five tips for overcoming anxiety on stage.
#1 – Picture them enjoying the outcome
You may have heard the advice to picture the audience in their underwear if you’re nervous.
This is one of the worst pieces of advice ever given about overcoming nerves. Public speaking tips that have you creating a mental shield around you will only make your job harder.
Because it separates you from your audience rather than connects you to them.
If you’re an expert going on stage to share that expertise, then they’ll be enjoying some sort of transformation with your guidance and help.
So picture what it will be like for them to enjoy that outcome.
What is their life like now, before your help?
And what will it be like once they’ve gone through your process?
This will remind you why you’re even on that stage to begin with.
#2 – Breathing naturally overcomes nerves better than controlled breathing
It’s common advice to tell people to breathe when they’re nervous, and that’s essentially because when we’re nervous we have shorter, more shallow breaths.
Poorer breathing means less oxygen to the brain – which is not what you want on stage.
However, it’s become popular to utilize super affected, technical breathing like what one learns in a yoga class.
This, like the underwear tip, causes a disconnect – though in this case it’s a disconnect with our own body.
Instead of getting super technical with your breathing, simply breathe in and out slowly and naturally for a minute.
This will help you to regulate your body and help you calm your nerves.
#3 – Practice horse stance
I practice martial arts, and one thing we do in class is horse stance – which is standing with the legs wide and bent.
Sort of like how we look when we straddle a horse.
We also see this with sumo wrestlers and when ballet dancers move down into a second position grand plie in ballet.
If you’re experiencing nerves, it can be of great value to spend perhaps 30 seconds in horse stance before you go out on stage.
Though this can be a physical challenge – it’s meant to be – taking this pose will force you to focus on being in your body.
As opposed to being in your head.
See how that would help?
Horse stance also helps with mental clarity and may even help you improve your posture.
I do recommend, however, that you get used to it before the day of your speech, maybe practicing every day at least for a few weeks out.
#4 – Take a beat to see your audience before you start
What nearly every speaker does when they go out on stage is breathlessly thank the audience for their warm welcome.
And this makes sense, because when a speaker suddenly walks out on stage they want the audience to like them.
They let their nerves get the best of them.
Instead, I’d like you to walk out on stage and take half a beat – maybe 2 seconds – to look out at the audience.
Maybe even make eye contact with one or two people if the stage lights haven’t blocked them all out of your vision.
And then start.
You’re on stage in service of your audience. And this kind of moment will force you to be there with them.
It will remind you why you’re there, recalling tip #1 earlier in this article.
#5 – Start without visiting
This is a close cousin of tip #4.
Again, most speakers visit with their audience.
“How are you all doing?”
“It’s so nice to be here!”
This squanders the tension that so greatly impregnates the opening of a talk.
You’re once again allowing your nerves to get the best of you.
If you’d like to truly become master of your nerves, take supreme ownership of your place on stage.
And do that by simply starting with a powerful first line.
Begin a story. Make a confession.
Do something that commands your audience’s attention.
And when everyone is held rapt at attention, you probably won’t be nervous because you’ll be connected with them.
The ultimate tip to overcome anxiety about speaking
In the end, the more ownership you take of the stage the more compelling you will be.
If you experience nerves, public speaking tips like the above will help you take ownership.
And that sense of ownership starts not with what you do once you’re already out there, but what you do before you start.
If you’re interested in the ultimate communication technique for taking ownership of your place on stage, check out a free training here.