Last week I had the honor of speaking at the NYPD’s 2018 Women Inspiring Women Conference. At least 800 police women gathered at HQ to celebrate and support each other.
What a thrill it was to be in a room full of courageous women. They were an impressive group indeed – officers, sergeants, detectives, lieutenants, chiefs, deputy commissioners and civilian leaders. It was a day of pride, sisterhood and generosity.
I was invited to lead a breakout session on Presenting with Courage, Presence and Clarity, and I began by asking the group how they felt about making presentations.
They were eager to share, and this is some of what they told me: “I get butterflies.” + “My palms start to sweat.” + “It’s hard to breathe.” + “My knees and hands start to shake.” + “My mouth gets dry.” “My cheeks turn red.”
You might think that these powerful and brave police women wouldn’t feel nervous speaking in front of the room. After all, they carry guns, fight crime, handle difficult interrogations, and put their lives on the line.
But they do.
So I told the group that it’s 100% normal to feel scared when we feel vulnerable. It takes a special kind of courage to stand alone in front of a crowd. Nerves and public speaking go and in hand.
The trick is to manage nervousness, rather than try to eradicate those feelings.
Here a few of my best tips to help you tackle the jitters when they come:
Breathe – Core breathing will slow down a racing heart. Take a deep breathe (counting to five) and feel your belly expand. Hold that breathe for another five seconds before letting it out slowly. Repeat a few times as needed.
Get rid of excess energy – As you sit waiting to be introduced, tense the muscles in your arms, thighs and calves, hold for a few seconds, and then let go. No one will notice and it helps to use up excess energy before you walk to the front of the room.
Prepare – Find some family or friends to practice on. It really helps to practice saying things out loud before it really matters. Allow yourself to mess up and start again.
Memorize your Opening and your Close – Don’t memorize your entire presentation. Make your opening a “hook” that captures interest, like a quote, a question, or a surprising fact. Your close should capture WHY it all matters in one or two sentences. Finish strong.
Nerves are 100% normal, even for New York’s finest. The good news is that nerves don’t have to shut you down.
All the best,
P.S. – If you need help overcoming nervousness, we are here to help!