Pushing Against Fear
I was talking on the phone with a friend this morning who was telling me about a presentation that she was doing next week and how her public speaking panic was ramping up big time - which she thought she had stared down over the last many years.
I gave her the following suggestion as an option to meet the panic head-on:
When we get nervous and the physiological response comes about making us shake, get dry mouth, and feel dizzy, we can actually meet our fear by using what is termed "immediacy" in communication theory. Our inclination is to step over, ignore, push down, swallow, or dance around the nerves - attempting to push them away. The result of this can frequently be bigger nerves, worse dizziness, skakier voice, and dry mouth that hedges on dry heaving. Immediacy says to name it in the moment. So, while your voice and body are shaking... pause for a second, take a sip of water, a deep breath, and say "Ok, I'm feeling slightly nervous to be speaking with you all so i'm just going to get centered for a sec. Thanks for being here and while I still surprisingly get nervous to speak, I am always excited to share this information with you." Undoubtedly, your physiology will shift dramatically. Your monky mind will hear you acknowledging its attempts to mess with your preparedness and know-how, and a much greater sense of calm will swadle you. And, at that point, proceed with your talk. You've got this.
You are prepared. You know your material and you even love to talk about it. The nerves are reptilian, pulling from emotional memory that isn't grounded in the now. The pause and use of immediacy behaviorally shifts you into your higher mind - out of fight or flight, into the present moment, and a part of your brain that rules the here and now.
Don't push too hard against the fear. Instead, step toward it and use it as the place you are starting from - acknowledging to yourself and your audience where you are at. You'll be amazed at how it cuts into the fear response and begins to neuturalize your shakes - as well as how it connects you on a whole different level to your audience.
It's good work.