Get Rid of Public Speaking Jitters For First Timers


Public speaking is so easy, said no one ever. From meticulously preparing your speech, through practicing it over and over again, to the very last moment when you are peeking through the curtains, it all leads to that awful feeling when your stomach drops with a bundle of nerves.

Fear not, here are a few tips that come  from various recitals and oratory competitions. Bear in mind, these are first steps to a longer journey of becoming a confident speaker and are meant as temporary solutions to nerves until you realize you are more than capable of putting on a great performance by being yourself.

  • Send in a friend.

When you are speaking, you will often be expected to come on stage with few notes or none at all. Even if you do have them, you should be aiming to look at the audience as much as possible. In these situations, you should perhaps find a friendly face to focus on. Ask a friend to come in a little bit early and find a spot in the center of the auditorium. That way, you know exactly where to look up to and will both look and feel more confident.

Image Courtesy of Pinterest.
  • Find the spot.

If you cannot find a friend to come and support you in person, worry not. Most theaters that feature ballet performances will have a red dot of light at the very center of the audience. This is meant to help ballet dancers spot during pirouettes and fouettes. In order to make sure you don’t lose yourself in looking around unfamiliar faces, try and look for that spot ahead of your performance. If there is no red spot, or if you are not in a theater, a similar thing can be done with a poster on the wall or a picture frame.

Eventually, the goal is for you to feel confident enough to make eye contact even with strangers, but until then – just keep looking up.

  • Hand position

While the ideal position is ideally either with your hands relaxed next to you, or with gentle, open gesticulation (like the image below), these positions are very vulnerable and as a first-time speaker, you may struggle with maintaining them. Instead, you may link your hands behind your back for performances such as recitals or short, memorized speeches. This will give you a sense of calm and safety. Still, make sure not to cross your arms over your chest, as it will make you seem stand off-ish.

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Image Courtesy of Medium.
  • Practice makes perfect (as cliche as it sounds)

When you have the chance to practice, take it! Speak to your friends to see if the speech makes sense to them, go to the performance hall ahead of time whenever possible so you can familiarize yourself with the space. When you practice enough, you will be able to deliver a good version of the speech even if you start overthinking halfway through.

  • Keep going!

If you stutter or make a mistake, do not apologize, do not try to make a joke regarding how nervous you are (at any time). In these cases, just keep going with your speech. An excellent piece of advice I received during one of my first recital competitions in 1st grade of elementary school was – you are the only one who knows what this is supposed to sound like ideally. If you can’t say it ideally, make others think you did.

  • Do NOT imagine the audience naked

As much as people like to joke that this helps, this way of thinking will both take your attention away from what you want to say, and will in turn make you feel all the more vulnerable.

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Image Courtesy of Ted Talks.

No matter what happens, remember that you are meant to enjoy your experience as much as possible! Do not let imposter syndrome get to you – the fact that you are nervous does not mean you do not belong to that stage.

Best of luck, and speak on!

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