10 tips for nerves and stage fright

… Years ago

Three more speakers for me. Although I know it is disturbing, I walk back and forth on the stage of a large theater. A dry mouth, but water no longer helps. Earlier I was asked if I wanted a cup of coffee, tasty! I would have answered enthusiastically. Nobody told that 'do you want coffee' question that the black juice would be in a red and black checkered cardboard cup. And no one had asked if I liked a cup of old and overheated percolator coffee. If I had known that, I would have replied: 'please tea, thank you'. Now this bad taste lingered in my mouth for the rest of the afternoon. No Wilhelmina peppermint could beat this. In addition, I got a stomach ache, something was rumbling. Only one more time to the toilet then. Is that still possible? Pfoe, so to speak, the room almost falls asleep

Yes it was necessary that toilet, but now I feel even worse. What are my first sentences again? Is everything technically well organized now? Is there still enough power in the batteries of that microphone? What is my first sentence again?
And then what do I say next? 

It was often that way with me, fortunately this has been years ago. It wasn't until I understood that your nerves are there for a reason. Your body sets everything in motion to do that one important thing you are going to do. Eappeal to and inspire a large group of people with your story. The main goal is that the story comes across well.

So prepare your body for this. 

Dealing with nerves

stage fright

Where do those nerves come from?

It makes sense to become nervous to speak for a large group. There is a great risk that things will go wrong, then there is a danger that you will be outside the group. In the period when we were still hunters and collectors, the group had become life-threatening. Because first, you couldn't eat with them. And, secondly, if a fire was made in the evening to protect the group from wild saber-toothed tigers, you were no longer welcome in the group. You were already weakened because you had not eaten, and the saber-toothed tiger would smell your fear and string you to his saber. Or you died alone in a corner if the Saber-toothed tiger could not find you or was too lazy to search… 

However, this fear is in our DNA, we do everything we can to stay with the group and someone who comes to tell something sticks his neck out. It can therefore easily be chopped off. 

Well, then we now know where that unprecedented fear comes from speaking for large groups. It often saves half if you can put the feeling of nervousness into perspective. A theory like this immediately puts that feeling into perspective, because I do not see any life-threatening Saber-toothed tigers here.

Saber-toothed tiger

Saber-toothed tiger

Convert stage fright into enthusiasm

Even if we understand where the nervous feeling comes from, by understanding it it is not gone. Fortunately, there is a trick for this.

Nervousness is very similar to enthusiasm. Enthusiastic people also bounce around the room, but their energy is directed outwards. The energy of nervous people has turned inward. If you can notice that your body is getting ready just before an important presentation. You feel the nerves, then you can adjust the story you tell yourself at that moment. Editing your story, from 'I'm nervous' to 'I'm excited and excited to start telling my story'. 

Since using this technique I have noticed that the energy that my body creates to perform is channeled and that I can use that energy for good during my performance. Delicious!


First impression

When you come on stage with this sincere and enthusiastic energy, everyone is immediately looking forward to it. The enthusiasm is contagious. The audience feels what you feel, they are probably thinking, wow this guy is looking forward to it, nice. I'm curious what he has to say. And let me be clear, I am not coming on stage with an Emile Ratelband-like TJAKKA. I am myself, and at that moment I am energetic and excited to tell my story. To inspire and amaze a group of people. That is very different to look at than when someone thinks about whether he still knows his text, whether he will be well received and whether his story matters. The great thing about a first impression is that you always start with a head start. That's good to realize. The audience thinks, namely ah, a new speaker, fresh input, I am curious. You always get that push as a gift.

Four tips for stage fright

  1. Breathe well and in a controlled manner

  2. Feel the ground beneath your feet

  3. Are you aware of the energy in your body

  4. Change the label that you give to this energy from "I'm nervous" to "I'm excited."

Bonus tip

Then another bonus tip I ever got from an old one magician have learned. A craftsman who had performed all his life. He she:

"You stand up, feel the ground under your feet, while saying good afternoon or something like that, draw imaginary lines to all those beautiful people sitting in front of you."

That goes above in a fraction of a second. But if you do this, you immediately have 'contact' with the audience. I use it regularly and suspect that this has become automatic. 

Good preparation is more than half the battle

Of course it is like speaker even more important that you know the presentation very well by heart, and that you are prepared for questions and interactions from the audience.

It is sometimes said that good preparation is half the battle. But, I believe that a tight preparation will help you even further than the first half. On stage as a speaker, you need all your attention to the way you put the words in the spotlight. And of course for the contact with the audience, presenting is about the interaction between the presenter and the audience and that requires practice and attention. If you still have to think about what to say next or where to put your hands, it will be at the expense of the presentation.

Are you all set for it? Finally, view the five tips to check whether your presentation is properly put together.

  1. Add texture to your presentation
    Do you want to keep the attention? Make sure you have enough variety and stimulate both hemispheres of the brain. I have written a more extensive story about this. See How do you bring emotion into your speech?
  2. Show don't tell
    One of the basic theater laws is 'show don't tell'. In other words, if you can show it, you don't have to tell it. There are still so many presentations where the presenter explains what can be seen on the slide. Showing and telling at the same time is often not necessary. It works much better if you can tell a story. Stories stay in our minds much better than facts.
  3. Death by powerpoint
    Make sure you don't overload the public with information. A supporting picture for your story often works better than a complicated graph. Also avoid letters that are too small or letters in general. Of course your PowerPoint should not be a cheat sheet.
  4. Structure
    Introduce a clear structure to your presentation, if necessary, state in advance which parts you want to cover. Stick to that path too. This provides clarity and if you do it well and incorporate a cliffhanger, it can ensure that the tension of your audience is slightly stretched.
  5. Energy
    Use your energy and volume levels very consciously during your speech. If you speak softly and in an exciting way, the audience will come to you. If you speak too loud, they want to get away from you. This applies not only to your use of voice, but also to your body language.

Do you have any additions to this list? Then leave a comment below this message. Or pass these tips on to someone.

Book guest speaker Jochem Nooyen for your seminar or event

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