Last week, I was asked to speak in front of a large audience of industry peers. Most of these folks know me and know that I am not shy to speak about anything. I was excited to be called upon to share my story on how I Tapped into My Inner Career Warrior and Designed the Career of My Dreams.
What I didn’t expect was how nervous I was. Yes, anxious would be a good word to use. You would think speaking in front of people you’ve known your entire life would natural, but as I looked out into the crowd of familiar faces – you know the ones that know you so well they might know your secrets.
For whatever reason, I was a bundle of nerves!
I was in the back of the stage waiting to be called and I could feel my nervous energy escalating as I waited. I did everything I could to get out of my own head. I said prayer after prayer, rehearsed and rehearsed again but I could feel my throat tightening and my voice cracking.
Finally, it was my time to go on stage and I could feel my heart beating and my blood pumping and for me, a women with rosacea, could feel my cheeks getting flushed.
And I sat in the chair and the interviewer asked me the first question and guess what happened…..
I went totally blank.
No kidding for about the longest 3 seconds of my life, I drew a blank and couldn’t speak. But in my defense, the question was really difficult… “what do you do?” . Are you kidding me? All I kept saying to myself is Kellie, open your mouth, say something.. you answer this question a million times before and OMG, talk about a soft ball!
How embarrassing. So what did I do?
I laughed and made fun of myself. I didn’t run away from the moment, I seized it and turned it around with humor. And it worked famously.
Here is my first tip for you to combat your nerves when you feel them taking over.
1) Give yourself a break! It happens and it happens to everyone. For many reasons, I nerves from time to time want to remind us that they are still there. Remind us that we are human. I actually appreciate these moments because it forces me to reboot and change things up. Sometimes we rehearse so much, we go on autopilot and miss valuable opportunities to engage with our audience. Stop looking for perfection and forgive yourself for minor mistakes.
2) “Lighten up Francis” – As so eloquently recited by Sgt. Hulka in one of the best movies of all times, Stripes. Lighten up. Don’t be so serious and allow yourself to find the humor in these moments. My ability to laugh and make a joke out of my nerves, lightened the entire situation and the host and I had a blast playing off each other. It helped connect me with her and the audience and is now one of those precious stories I share.
3) Movement, Meditation and Mental Talk. Nervous energy needs an outlet so there are techniques out there that do work such as, moving. You will hear many speakers talk about jumping up and down or exercising to combat nerves. Others talk about yoga and meditation to calm breathing which in turn, calms nerves and of course, my favorite, talk yourself straight. A combination of all these techniques are sure to make a difference in your battle with your own nerves.