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Section 26

Table of Contents | NCCAP/NCTRC CE Booklet

Before you speak  Not all of these are necessary, but…
1. Take care of basic needs. Use the bathroom. Make sure you have a handkerchief or Kleenex handy. Pour a glass of water to place at the lectern (No ice, please. You don’t want to be choking on a cube up there. Unwrap a cough drop so it’s ready to use, if needed. If you suffer from dry mouth, put a thin layer of Vaseline ointment on your teeth so your upper lip won't stick to your teeth.
2. Focused movement will help burn nervous energy. Find practical ways to move your body. Go to a drinking fountain. Walk down the hall. Go to the back of the room to look at some materials. Shut a door. Adjust a window shade, if not in someone's home, of course. Get your business cards ready so you don’t have to fumble for them after your presentation.
3. CAUTION: Avoid unfocused movement, such as pacing or repeatedly shuffling papers. Such restlessness will only increase your nervousness—and create a negative impression.
4. Stuck at your seat… for example if the talk takes place in some one’s living room, and can't use any of the preceding movement ideas for moving around the room?  Look for simple opportunities that will create purposeful movement. Put your pen in your pocket. Slowly adjust your posture, but don't fidget. Uncross your legs in a natural way. Sit up straighter. Slowly sip the cup of tea you wisely brought along (great for relaxing your vocal cords as well as easing your nervousness.  Decaf works well.) Reach for a notepad. Take some notes. Even small movements can help dissi­pate nervousness—and give you a sense of being in control.
5. Think positive. Make affirming statements to yourself: “I really know my subject. . . . These people like me. . . . I will give a lot of helpful information to them today… I’ve been preparing for weeks. . . .”
6. Breathe.  Deeply and slowly and silently.
7. Put psychologist William James to the test. It was James who first described the “as if” principle: Act as if you are confident, and you truly will become confident. A great deal of psychological theory goes into this, but to put it in a nutshell: Your body tends to do what your mind expects. If your mind expects a successful presentation, your body is more likely to produce one.
8. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, offered this: “It is my practice before making a speech to pray for the people present and to send out thoughts of love and good-will toward them.” (Dr. Peale was shy and insecure as a young speaker. He later credited “positive thinking” for his platform success.)
9. Avoid negative thoughts like the plague. The minute you find yourself thinking, “I know I’m going to get nervous,” you must stop that thought immediately. Replace it with a positive affirmation: “This is a popular topic. The audience will like hearing about it.” Can’t manage anything positive? Then mentally recite something like a grocery list. It may not be profound, but at least it’s better than something negative.  Below write an affirmation to repeat to yourself before you speak.




10. Avoid negative people. If a coworker grates on your nerves, walk away. Can’t think of a gracious escape? Go to the bathroom and lock yourself in a stall. It’s better than being flustered by a colleague.  Below, list in writing or mentally negative people to avoid prior to giving your Volunteer Recruitment Talk.

Negative People to Avoid Prior to my Talk







In the opening moments
Speakers typically feel most nervous at the very beginning. Here are a few suggestions for quelling the jitters:
1. Make your opening lines clear and crisp; know them inside out. The more confident you sound, the less nervous you will feel.  Review the preceding section in which you wrote your introduction.

2. Speak a bit louder than usual. What is the trick for getting better volume? Direct your speech to the back row, if you are in a large room.  But of course, don't overdo it.
3. Use gestures to burn off your nervous energy.  Remember I suggested asking for a show of hands regarding who knew where your facility was located.  You might gesture with the index finger of your left hand, counting, saying "Let's see, there's one… two… four… six…gosh, most of the group knows where XYZ Convalescent Center is.  Great!"  You of course do not have to count exactly.
4. Make strategic eye contact. Overcome the common tendency of looking at someone sitting close to you. Instead, direct your opening lines to someone in the back of the room, or if sitting in a circle, choose the person furthest to your left, opposite from you, and furthest to your right. However, if I am extremely nervous, until I can calm myself down, I look for the most friendly faces in the group as I move my eye contact between those two or three friendly looking folks regardless of where they are sitting.  After become more comfortable, I then do what the National Speaker's Association terms "playing the corners" by having eye contact with the back left corner of the room, an individual in the back center of the room, and an individual in the back right corner of the room; zigzagging in between, then returning eye contact to the back left corner of the room, you create an eye contact pattern that encompasses everyone.  Some beginning or insecure speakers look at the back wall, but I have listened to those speakers, and you can definitely tell they are speaking to a wall, and not speaking to the individuals in the group,
5. Breathe. A good place to build some pauses into your presentation is when you are reaching for your next item to demonstrate.  Pauses are absolutely essential.  Hearing a continuous flow of chatter at the same pace is not only monotonous and boring, but actually irritating. These pauses in between your illustrations, examples, or stories is a perfect chance to take a breath.  Keep in mind this breath needs to be a non-audible breath, of course.

Above all, learn from your experience. Here is a post-presentation critique.
This information will help you identify the times when you’re most susceptible to nervousness.  When did you feel the most nervous?
I felt most nervous at the following times:
_____ when I first got the assignment  
_____ when I began the preparation
_____ when I found out how large the audience was
_____ when I did my first rehearsal
_____ when I learned who would introduce me
_____ the week before
_____ the day before
_____ the night before
_____ the morning of the speech
_____ as I was being introduced
_____ as I was walking to the lectern
_____ as I said my opening lines
_____ when I recognized friends/relatives or certain faces in the audience
_____ in the middle
_____ at the end
_____ when someone in the audience gave me an unfriendly look
_____ when someone in the audience fell asleep
_____ at the networking session afterward, in which I was talking to audience members
With this information you can not practice a relaxation technique to quell your nerves. 

Forward to Section 27
Back to Section 25

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