Presenteritis, as long-term readers will know, is what I call that group of symptoms experienced by many nervous speakers. From butterflies in the tummy to cold feet, a high heart rate to tense shoulders, Presenteritis actually makes it even harder to speak as you become more nervous about doing so.
The condition can be pretty nasty, and promotes a vicious circle: you get nervous, you experience Presenteritis, you become less able to speak, and therefore you get even more nervous. This can continue in ever-decreasing circles until speakers give up on the thought of ever doing well on stage.
But this is a big mistake – because Presenteritis can be beaten.
In my recent video about Presenteritis, I make the point that, despite the serious effects it can have, it is in fact just a little bug … and, like most bugs, can be squashed. Here are three of the best entry-level “karate moves” you can use to swat away Presenteritis:
This might sound like a cliché – but practice really does make perfect. The more you become used to speaking in general, and sometimes a specific speech in particular, the more likely it is that you will feel comfortable onstage.
Presenteritis thrives on your nerves – they are like food to it. The best way to beat the bug, then, is to calm your own fears … and confidence comes from being well rehearsed.
2. BREATHE BETTER.
Of course, we all feel nerves of some kind when we’re about to perform in public – for many of us, no amount of confidence will entirely dispel a few jitters. Nerves are natural, and can even be harnessed to good effect – they keep us sharp, and give us energy.
One way to help nerves work for us, and prevent them from taking over, is to learn how to breathe better. Deep breaths, rather than short and shallow ones, will both give you more air to speak with – and have a calming effect to help keep you in command of all that nervous energy. On which note …
Presenteritis will try to make your muscles tense, preventing you from seeming confident – but also from allowing air to travel from your diaphragm and through your mouth as it should. So do what you can to relax – shake yourself loose, think soothing thoughts, banish Presenteritis to the back of your mind … and then walk out onto stage without it.