By Ritwika De, Participants Coordinator 2020-2021
Nearly everybody has been there; your chest clogs up, and your head starts to spin. You have trouble breathing and you are painfully aware of every single thought running through your head. Regardless of your age, being anxious before public speaking is increadily common.
Turns out that being anxious is in our DNA since humans perceive eyes on us as an existential threat. This very fear of being watched has kept us alive for millions of years since our flight, fight or freeze response gets triggered. Thankfully, there is a solution to keep this feeling at bay. The answer lies in turning the focus away from ourselves, away from the thought if the audience is going to like us – to the feeling of helping the audience. This feeling helps us neutralize the feeling of being under attack and you start to become less nervous.
Here are 3 easy steps to train yourself to master this feeling:
1. Focus on the material and not the audience:
At most conferences, your first engagement with the audience happens with the general speakers list. Here you relate the topic at hand with your country’s response to it. This is initially there for the rest of the delegates present to familiarize themselves with your country’s stance on the topic. You focus on what information your audience needs to know in order to compare if their country’s stance is the same, and thus whether to form an alliance later in the conference or not.
Always remember, everybody in the room is also anxiously waiting for their turn. They are more likely to focus on the new information being presented in front of them, rather than how it is being delivered. The way the audience react is beyond your control, and you can only focus on delivering your information in the best way possible!
2. Be prepared:
Before coming to any conference, the key lies in preparing extensively. You should have done enough research about your country’s policies, how they are dealing with the topic at hand, and any other information that might be relevant during debates. The more you familiarise yourself with your country and the topic at hand, the more you care about the topic and the smaller the chances of you making a mistake.
It also helps to be prepared with a list of potential questions the other delegates might ask you, or help you prepare an answer when you are debating with other delegates. Being prepared also means that you practise your speeches, or answers several times. Whether it is infront of the mirror or infront of your family – or even your pet! Making a video of yourself practising also lowers the level of anxiety because usually you look your normal self, and helps to put an end to the lies you are being fed by your brain.
3. Do some breathing:
The most important point is: do not forget to ground yourself. Take two or more small breaths before and during the pauses of your speech. These few seconds help you to refocus and gather yourself before you go to the next point. It also gives you a second of reflection that no one has eaten you up yet or thrown a tomato at you.
Even though these are only 3 steps, and there are million others which help as well, it is always best to go for it. Don’t forget that at the end of the day, even the big artists of the day get anxious before a big performance. As Amy Poeler said: Being nervous means that you care, you are alive, and you are taking some kind of a risk! Hooray for being nervous!