Just seconds before you are about to go on stage to give a speech or presentation, your legs or hands start to tremble or you might feel jittery running up your legs, making your whole body feel numb, and your heart starts pounding so fast you feel that might pass out.
Does this feeling sound familiar?
Don’t worry you are not at all alone. This is something almost everyone experiences at least once before giving a speech in front of an audience. If someone tells you otherwise, they are probably, definitely lying!
But WHY does it happen?
When we physically start trembling, it is our body’s natural way of responding to a situation that our mind perceives to be scary and dangerous. There is an instant adrenaline rush due to which our heart rate fastens and our mind starts preparing us for the “fight-or-flight” situation, i.e, your mind starts preparing you to decide whether you want to stay and fight the situation or you want to flee or run away from the situation.
And as public speaking is one of those situations that we tend to perceive as a threat, it results in anxiety that causes not just our body to tremble and shake but even our voice.
Thus, the shaking and trembling of our body and voice during a speech is nothing but an exhibition of our anxiety and with some time, effort and practice you can overcome it!
Physical and verbal trembling during a speech is something that can come to us involuntarily and at that moment we might blank out completely and become so vulnerable that our mind is not able to process and think of anything. At that moment it’s easy for us to start feeling powerless and like we’ve lost the game.
So, how do we overcome it?
It’s all about balancing and combining our physiology and psychology, i.e., we need to physically as well as mentally prepare ourselves in order to overcome the tremble and anxiety during the speech.
While there are some things you can do to get quick results, there are some things you have to practice in order to address this issue in the long run, which we will talk about later.
But first, let’s look at some of the simple and basic tips and tricks that you can use during or a few minutes before your speech.
Tips and Tricks to Stop shaking Before and During a Speech
A few minutes before going onto the stage, start creating a mental image of yourself, going in front of the audience with confidence, picturizing everyone applauding and cheering, you being sure of the subject matter you’ve prepared for and you’re enjoying talking about it.
It is one of the ways to convince your mind that you won’t be getting nervous while speaking.
This is something you could also practice over the period, about 10-15 days before D-Day. You can visualize yourself on the stage being confident. If you can go and check out the venue in advance, you can visualize yourself in the same place you are going to be delivering your speech.
To get a better idea about what I am talking about, check out the youtube video linked below.
Clench your legs or hands
If you are giving a speech behind a podium, where only your upper body is visible to the audience, you can use this trick. While speaking, if your hands or legs start trembling, you could tighten or cross your legs.
You might have noticed that whenever we are tense or nervous, our muscles tighten and we start clenching our hands. It’s one of the ways our body releases tension. This will help you feel a little bit relaxed temporarily throughout your speech.
But what if there is no podium and there is no way you can cross your legs or clench your feet? – You can try to walk on the stage but not so much that your audience might get distracted from all the moving instead of listening to what you are saying. You can try moving whenever you start feeling that you might be forgetting or getting anxious.
Instead of beginning your speech with your topic directly about your topic, you can start your speech with a brief introduction of yourself. This will help grab your audience’s attention and make them feel comfortable.
You can start with a small greeting, following up with your name, qualification, and what you are going to be talking about.
For example, “Hello, good morning everyone, My name is XYZ, and I am pursuing my master’s in psychology, and today I will be talking about the Effects of social media on mental health.” then all you have to do is start talking about what you have prepared.
Before going on to the stage if you start getting anxious, this small introduction will help you get briefly acquainted with the whole setting. Check out this article if you wish to know more about introductory opening lines- How To Introduce A Speaker In Any Setting (And Amaze Your Audience)
And if you have the liberty you can also begin your speech with a small anecdote or even use humor.
Using defense mechanisms right
Smiling and laughing are a couple of ways we try to defend ourselves emotionally and mentally when we are nervous or anxious. Sometimes, it may be awkward to laugh or smile in an inappropriate situation that makes us uncomfortable.
But when you are on stage, this works!
And this is one of the tips that I received from a friend of mine,
He says it somehow helps him to redirect his nervous energy into a smile.
When we physically smile our brain produces chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which are responsible for making us feel happy and less stressed. This works, because in a way by doing this we are trying to convince our body that it’s okay, that the situation is not threatening and we are smiling it away.
And of course, smiling is a great way to connect with your audience as well.
Use simple vocabulary
If you think you might get anxious while talking in front of an audience, avoid using difficult words in your speech. Fancy vocabulary will make you sound like an intellectual and add credibility to your speech but if your mind suddenly goes blank and you start trembling, at that moment you might have a difficult time recalling those heavy words you prepared.
So, unless it comes naturally to you, try using simple vocabulary. You just need to ensure that your audience understands what you have to say.
Move before your speech
You can also warm up your body by dancing, exercising, or just moving around a few minutes before the speech. One of the tricks I use is that, if I feel anxious before a presentation, I just take a little walk or move my legs up and down.
You can even dance or exercise on the day of your speech. These physical movements help us reduce overall anxiety and get us pumped. It helps in improving our overall mood which eventually reduces nervousness.
There are various drawbacks when it comes to using cue cards during a speech, your audience might get the impression that you are not prepared or it can be very distracting. It might also hinder your connection with the audience.
But, even with all these drawbacks of using cue cards, it is useful to keep the cards ready for reference, especially when you think you might not be completely prepared for the speech or are worried that your anxiety might take over.
If in any case, your mind blanks out or starts getting nervous, you can just look into the cards and continue to talk. Having cue cards ready might also take off the pressure of memorizing everything because you will know that even if you forget anything you can just refer to the cards.
Breathe, but how does it help?
We might have heard of this tip to calm our anxiety many times before right?
But why and how does this help us with our public speaking?
Deep breathing physically helps our body to calm down when we are anxious or stressed. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our ‘fight or flight response that was mentioned earlier, breathing helps us to manage and calm that sympathetic nervous system eventually reducing the feeling of anxiety
There are breathing exercises you can use just a few minutes before your speech that will help you control your anxious thoughts.
Just take a deep breath, hold it in for 4-5 seconds, release it, and continue doing this for 5 minutes. That’s it! That’s all you need to do to physically relax your body. While doing this breathing exercise try not to think about your speech. Just let it go.
Few other things you can keep in mind before giving your speech
Get a good night’s sleep
Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California conducted a study to see the association between sleep and anxiety. According to that research, insufficient sleep affects our emotional regulation and increases anxiety by 30%.
Hydrate yourself before going onto the stage
Not being hydrated enough can lead to dizziness and confusion. Also, make sure you’ve eaten enough.
Do not directly maintain eye contact with the audience. It might not be the case with everyone but it is possible that locking eyes with someone in the audience can further add to our anxiety. Instead, you can just move your eyes around the room or focus on something else like a chair or desk.
If your body language is powerful and confident, it signals your brain that everything is okay and you got this.
To get a better understanding of how our body language on stage influences our speech, check out this article that we’ve written- 5 Body Language Tips To Command The Stage
BUT what if, despite doing all this, you are still not able to shake off the feeling of nervousness?
I remember 2 months back when I had to give a small presentation in front of my professor and my classmates, even though I had prepared and knew exactly what I had to talk about still, my legs couldn’t stop shaking throughout the presentation. It was not because of my lack of preparation or my not being confidence about the material.
I realized that this fear was something that I had internalized deep into my mind and that no matter how many breathing exercises or preparations I did, I was not able to manage my anxiety.
While there are short-term things that you can do to help you with your anxiety on stage, there are things that you can do that will help you overcome the anxiety of public speaking internally and help understand the root cause of the nervousness and physical trembling while speaking.
These are some of the tips that I personally use whenever I know I might have to speak in front of an audience.
And yes, It is not something that can be achieved in a day or two, overcoming the anxiety of public speaking will take some time but it will help you get rid of it internally which will be helpful in the long run.
Long-term Tips and Tricks to Stop Shaking During a Speech
Prepare your subconscious
Our subconscious mind is the storehouse of every experience, every memory, every feeling, and every skill, it includes everything that we might have seen or done in our life from the
the moment we are born.
Even though we cannot see or physically witness our subconscious mind, it pretty much runs our life, emotions, and whatever we do. Our subconscious mind communicates with the conscious mind based on the information that it receives from our senses and emotions. That is how our negative or positive self-talk and emotions towards something or some situation directly affect how we perceive them.
When it comes to public speaking, we have internalized that fear into our subconscious so much over the years that even if we do small and simple practices like breathing and exercising it does not really help and we still end up shivering and feeling nervous whenever we have to speak in front of an audience because we keep on telling ourselves so many negative stories- “They might think I am an idiot”, “I don’t think I am prepared enough”, “I will be so embarrassed if I mess up my speech” etc.
Again, the best part is that we can overcome these internalized fears.
There are a few daily practices that we can do to gradually deal with our anxiety about public speaking.
Through daily positive affirmations, we consciously try to give a message to our subconscious minds. It challenges and changes our negative thought processes into more positive ones.
All you have to do is listen to any audio which includes all the affirmative sentences related to public speaking while you sleep. There are various audio available on the internet and on youtube, one of the youtube audios is linked here. You can also write down these sentences and then read them aloud a few times.
These are my favorite tricks that I use to overcome any kind of anxiety I face, be it nervousness related to exams, socializing, and of course public speaking.
You can especially practice this a few days before you know you have to speak in front of an audience and it REALLY helps!
Identify the cause of your fears
It is important to Identify why you feel scared and what is causing it.
Is it a particular experience? What is it that you internalized throughout your life?
For example, when I was in 8th grade I had to give a small speech in front of my classmates and teacher. I think I was not able to frame my sentence properly or I fumbled while talking, my friends and teacher started laughing and making fun of me. Since that experience I have internalized the fear of going through it again and whenever I had to talk in front of an audience, no matter how much I had prepared, out of fear of getting laughed at again I used to experience severe anxiety resulting in trembling, shivering and blanking out.
When we recognize where our fear is coming from, we can challenge and work on them.
Back to the example, now that I knew where my fears were coming from I was able to reason with myself, maybe it was just that one time or that every time I have to give a speech, it’s not necessary that I will have the same kind of audience.
-Before you prepare for your speech and go onto the stage, it is important to keep in mind that even if you feel anxious and your legs and voice starts to tremble, there is nothing wrong with that!!
Keep some faith in your audience and know that even they understand how terrifying it can be to speak on stage. Public speaking is something everyone gets anxious about. Even the most experienced speakers get nervous before talking in front of an audience.
If you blank out while speaking, what’s the worst that could happen anyway? We need to realize that most of our audience will be empathetic if we fumble.
Stop being so hard on yourself because the pressure of what ‘might’ happen makes us feel anxious.
-Don’t think of your speech as a one-way conversation, instead think about it in a way that you are having back and forth with your audience, this will make you feel less nervous because you will know they are not just there to listen to you but also interact with you.
For example, you can ask questions to your audience, try to have a small conversation with them, or pose a rhetorical question. In this way, you know you are engaging with them in some or the other way.
Knowing your content
This is the most important point to keep in mind, and I can’t stress it enough.
If you are thoroughly prepared for your speech, even if you start shaking or get nervous you will be able to deliver at least something to your audience.
Focus on serving your audience
Whenever we are speaking in front of an audience or giving a presentation, we tend to make the whole thing about ourselves, and by doing that we make a big deal of the whole experience that pressurizes us and we end up shaking and getting anxious.
But it is never about us, we need to focus on the audience and how we are serving them, and how we can deliver what we know in such a way that might help them.
Because we put pressure on ourselves, we start thinking and worrying about how we will do, and eventually, anxiety kicks in.
Along with the tips and tricks mentioned above, there are a few other practices you can inculcate in your routine. We’ve written an article on – Simple Yet Effective DAILY Public Speaking Exercises. Check it out to know what other activities and exercises you can do to improve your public speaking and ease your anxiety.
If you have prepared the best you could have and you know what you are going to talk about, It is okay if you even end up shaking and fumbling during a speech.
Speaking in front of an audience is not easy but it is also not impossible, with practice and experience you CAN overcome the anxiety of public speaking.
You just need to put yourself out there and practice and practice.
One way is to accept that this might happen again and again and that it is okay.
If anyone in the world can do it, then why can’t you?