Getting Your Butterflies in Formation

by Cathy Hammer

As the CEO of your company, you may be a leader, a visionary, and a negotiator.  But are you ready to represent your company at interviews, conventions and panels?  Even with the explosion of social media – or maybe because of it – representing your company in the public eye is more important than ever to building your business.  Whether or not you have experience in the spotlight, you are going to get nervous.  Unlike death (the second most-feared thing), it simply isn’t a natural act.  However, there are ways to train yourself to treat those butterflies as “a good thing,” and use the added energy to give your speech an extra edge.

The first thing to remember is that, no matter how badly your knees are knocking, chances are no one else can tell.  The worst thing you can do is announce your nervousness.  Gentle souls in the audience are bound to become concerned about you, instead of paying attention to what you are saying.

To get control of those butterflies, get into condition.  All types of performers warm-up with exercises, stretches, and vocalization.  You need to develop a speaking training routine.  Watch yourself speak, on video if possible.  Isolate the movements that enhance your speech from the ones that are nervous mannerisms.  Nothing makes you look more nervous than letting your hands fly around, instead of using gestures only when emphasizing key points.

On the day you are scheduled to speak, get some exercise.  This will release nervous tension.   Before you take your place, shake your fingers, picturing your nervousness dripping off them and onto the floor.  Relax your shoulders and let them drop.  Release your lower jaw and move it from side to side.  Wiggle your toes and move your ankles in small circles.  As with all exercise routines, remember to keep breathing deeply, expanding your stomach as you exhale.

During your speech, continue to breath deeply.  Speak slowly.  Talking too fast makes you sound nervous and can encourage a sudden rush of adrenaline.  If you are prone to dry mouth, keep a cup of water under the podium.  Just knowing it is there will almost guarantee you won’t need it.

If, despite all this preparation, you get hit with a rush of adrenaline, picture yourself on a roller coaster.  Instead of clutching the bar, see your hands rise into the air and enjoy the ride.  You’ll hear the power enrich your voice and feel the energy brighten your face.  When they fly in formation, those butterflies are beautiful.

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