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I hesitated with this title a lot.
And yet, this remains the #1 question I get asked all the time:
“Nausheen, how do I get over my nerves?”
“My heart beats really fast before I go on stage.”
“I can’t control my thoughts and words when I’m speaking in front of the camera.”
So I wanted to share with you the key strategies that have worked for me and my clients in the past.
With the caveat, of course, that it will take dedication, hard work and strategic practice.
The actionable tip to conquering your stage fright is:
Identify, understand and target your specific fear
Here are 5 common fears and strategies for dealing with them:
😱 You’re afraid of what others think.
There are two sides to this fear:
1. Being dependent on external validation.
2. Genuinely needing to impress senior management/investors/clients to seek a win.
Take time to understand whether you’re feeling undue pressure due to the need to please people, or whether it’s warranted stress because the stakes are high.
For targeting the first type: I used a combination of positive self-talk as well as breaking away from toxic environments.
For the second: understand the audience and figure out what would impress them and integrate that into your talk or presentation.
😱 You feel out of control.
The best way to target this is to prepare, prepare, prepare.
And I don’t mean just the presentation itself. Look up who the audience will be. Create a list of anticipated concerns and questions. Understand the logistics of how you’ll be presenting.
The more knowledge you have, the more you’ll feel in control.
😱 You feel like an imposter.
This happens to the best of us.
If you’re feeling like you don’t belong there, tell yourself:
Someone in a position of power promoted or selected you to be on that stage.
You may not see your self-worth but you have a wealth of experiences to share with people eager to listen and learn.
😱 You have been burnt in the past.
You can’t shake off that last time you presented or spoke on camera.
It was a disaster.
Instead of feeling terrible about it, use it as data. Watch it back. Or re-read your slides. Put yourself back in the moment.
What went wrong and where? That will give you clues on what to work on to improve next time.
😱 You can’t find the right words to say under pressure.
This is very common – especially if you’re presenting in a second language. Target this in 3 ways:
The week before the talk: Rehearse with a friend to give yourself some pressure and put yourself in the moment.
The moments before the talk: Practice slowing down. Seek calm a few minutes before you need to present. Putting your brain in a state where it feels reassured is the best way to perform well when the stakes are high.
During the talk: When you get stuck, just explain what you’re thinking instead of trying to find a word for it.
How you made people feel is what they will remember.
I spoke to someone this week who has spent the last 15 years understanding how emotions are connected to amazing leadership skills. In this week’s Speak as a Leader podcast, I talk to the incredible Mark C. Crowley, best-selling author of Lead From the Heart. It’s easy to focus on the business results. But you don’t need to choose between being good to people and business results. If you have someone who loves and cares for people AND can deliver results – that’s the golden ticket.
I honestly think this was one of my best conversations yet. I’d love to know what you think if you get a chance to listen. 💜
Till we meet again, speak fearlessly!
P.S If you want more help with this topic – read this full guide on how to conquer stage fright.