6.1 Handling nerves

Most public speakers say that they feel most nervous just before they begin to talk and during the first five minutes or so, and then things get much easier. During your preparation, it is worth considering how you will handle your own anxieties and nerves. What are your symptoms? You need to learn how to hide these symptoms and pretend to be more confident. For example, do your hands shake? Then avoid holding your notes in your hand! Does your mouth go dry? Remember to bring a bottle of water along. Often by finding ways of controlling the symptoms, you will find that you are no longer feeling quite so anxious.

It is unlikely that you will ever get rid of 'big lecture' nerves completely. Indeed, some of the effects of the extra adrenalin you feel are a good thing and will help you to improve your presentation or lecture. However, nerves do need controlling and you may like to consider how to be 'kind to yourself' at the beginning of your talk. For example, if you use a visual aid at the start your audience will look at that rather than you which can ease the pressure you feel. If you fear that your mind may go blank, make 'user-friendly' notes with key terms and prompts in bold or in different colours. Remember to breathe deeply and slowly if you feel panicky. Know yourself and plan to help yourself when you feel most ill at ease.

If lecture/public speaking nerves is something that does concern you considerably, you may find a session with the voice trainer helpful - this can be arranged through the Teaching and Learning Centre (see Section 10| for contact details).

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