Whether we like to or not, and no matter whether we are good at it or not, we will all be required to speak in public at some point.
To some it is given to preach at church. Others must speak regularly in their work as trainers. Most people must make wedding speeches or eulogies. And we all find ourselves in public meetings where we might want to ask a question or make a comment.
We will all find ourselves in the position of being under scrutiny in public – all eyes and ears tuned to what we have to say.
A Theory About Nerves
When it comes to speaking in public, we don’t get nervous because we are afraid of failing. We get nervous because we are greedy for the experience of success. We don’t want to subjugate our experience. The dream is to succeed and to look good, so when we struggle to do that – in the moment of quivering nerves – our minds are alarmed: “I’m performing horribly opposite to how I wish to perform.”
Our ego needs to enjoy success when we are on stage. But humility says, “Don’t seek it.”
If we can do our planning around what we are going to say, and prepare our minds in how to deliver it, envisioning same, we are set to succeed. But we must also not think about what has not yet come, unless we are strategising about delivery.
When we know we are about to speak, and we have confidence in the fact we know what we are to say, why do we fret? Well, it’s natural to get nervous; even to panic or to sense dread.
My theory for managing nerves is not a new theory. It’s informed by something I read once by J. Oswald Sanders. Sanders said, “Ignore the record of your nerves.” I’d add something to that: back your preparation and don’t even think about your performance until you are in it.
The negative stress of excessive nerves will make the task harder; and, at times, impossible. Even with my theory, it’s granted that the mind will still stew in the juices of its nervousness fleetingly and regularly. But we are to routinely forget the distraction and get back into the present. The speaking-in-public task is not about us; it’s about the message we have been given (or that we have prepared) to present.
Managing nerves when it comes to public speaking is about staying diligently present. If we can ignore our nerves and focus on what is actually happening we benefit greatly.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.