6 Ideas to Combat Public Speaking Nerves by Peter Hopwood

Based in Split, living over 15 years in Croatia, Peter Hopwood travels the globe as a Presence, Impact & Keynote Speaker Coach and founder of Hopwood Communications. From Dubai to Amsterdam, Shanghai to Berlin, Peter’s speaking engagements, workshops and coaching skills are in high demand across global digital, entrepreneurship and tech scenes. 

Here, for Split Tech City readers, Peter shares some straight-talking advice on how to reduce the anxiety before a presentation, keynote of startup pitch. You can find this Peter’s article and many more here.

Peter Hopwood: 6 Ideas to Combat Nerves Before Showtime

You’ve spent weeks putting together your pitch deck and presentation. You’re feeling pretty good about the content and you’re finally ready to hit the stage and show’em what you’ve got! Yet, in the minutes leading up to showtime the butterflies start to kick-in, as those nerves before speaking in public start to rise – and before you know it the inner voice of self-doubt has completely taken over.

Even now, as someone who’s made a career of speaking in front of crowds, still today I get those tickles and last minute nerves before speaking. Guess what? Even the best of speakers feel this wave of anxiety right before taking the mic. They rarely disappear.

However, the good news is – with practice, growth and experience you’ll learn how to manage how you feel and decrease the impact it’ll have on your performance. You’ll be able to psychologically transform this anxiety and these nerves before speaking into positive energy and excitement.

Every strong public speaker has their own way of tackling last-minute nerves before speaking to a crowd. I thought I’d share with you six things public speaking tips I still do today just before I open a conference, deliver a workshop or speak in public. Hopefully they’ll help you to increase your chances of a smooth performance and give you a welcomed boost of charisma minutes before showtime.

1. Feel pumped to share your idea

The first thing I do when the tickles are on the rampage is get myself back into the right mind-set. Back to a mental place in my mind which reminds why I’m doing this in the first place. Being a good public speaker is as much about controlling your inner voice and emotions as it is about public speaking skills and techniques. What I start to do is tell myself how excited I am to share my idea with the audience. I’m ready to give something worthwhile to my listeners. I have something great to share. Something they’ll find useful or valuable. I truly believe in my content and can’t wait to speak. I find this helps me control my inner thoughts and strengthens my will to do well on stage. Try it. It works for me.

2. Talk to Yourself

Yes, I hold my hands up high – I talk to myself. Although this public speaking tip sounds kind-a-weird, you’d be surprised at the positive effect it actually has – right before you’re in the spotlight. I tend to go through the main points and phrases of my opening five minutes over in my head. Although, at this stage I know the script by heart, it still gives me that extra last minute boost to remind me I’ll be fine. Finding a positive set of motivational phrases also can be a great benefit as self-talk can have a tremendously positive effect.

3. Visualize to reduce nerves before speaking

Just before getting to the venue I often run through a play-back video in my mind. It shows me doing well on stage, nailing a smooth performance and getting a good final reaction from my audience. Try to pin-point a time in the past where you did well on stage and throw those images into the mix. Other speakers have told me they focus on a person that makes them feel warm inside – their wife or kids. Moments before speaking, by visualizing warm feel-good images in your mind, the chances are these will be brought on stage with you. Something that’ll keep you in a good state-of-mind and in turn, something your audience will sense and absorb.

4. I like to move it, move it – and a bottle of water

Getting my body moving before I go on stage really warms me up and gets me physically ready – but also mentally. The endorphin starts to kick-in and the focus sways away from negative thoughts. Drinking water is also something I do at least an hour before to completely avoid any hint of Dehydration. When this creeps in, your body becomes tired and that’s when dryness starts to work its way to your lips, throat and mouth in turn having an impact on your voice. I always stay refreshed with a bottle of water at hand.

5. Hit the silly button

Now here’s something that I’ve found really effective to help me strip away those fears – becoming a little weird. Leading up to showtime, I actually start to pull a few funny-looking faces! Acting in a ridiculous way is always a clear reminder that I’m fully in control of who I am and how embarrassed or scared I feel. At that moment in a very unfamiliar environment, where we are designed to feel awkward, I actually feel comfortable with myself. Try it. You might just be surprised at the impact it’ll have.

6. Enjoy the moment 

The final nugget of advice is simple. Enjoy it! Whatever state of panic you find yourself in before you start to speak, just remember what this actually is. It’s your five-minutes-of-fame! In a world where we’re all trying to get attention, desperate for people to hear our message – you’re just about to get it. I try to see it as a live-theatre moment ready to make connections with people through my messages. Say to yourself you’re going to really enjoy it and have fun. Do this and your audience will feel the same way too.

Voila! There you have it. I hope these will help you feel more in control just before you speak. Just remember – it’s all in the mind. Control your thoughts before you hit the stage and you’ll give a far better performance.

Need direct help with your public speaking?

If you’ve got a pitch or presentation coming up but not sure of a few things and need some guidance – Peter can help. Drop him a line and he’ll help you polish your performance, boost your confidence and be 100% ready for showtime. So, it’s over to you. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter or get in touch via email hello@peter-hopwood.com. If you like this article, please explore some of his others. 

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About author

Tomislava Saša

As a professor of Croatian language and as a communicologist, with the affinity to technology, Split Tech City proved to be an ideal path. I want to contribute to creating better opportunities in Split. As executive editor of Split Tech City, I actively listen to the community. And I sincerely believe that the community is listening to us.