Nothing brings on tension more than someone telling you to relax. Before some important presentations, I remember good-intentioned people telling me to relax. I often would put my arms to my side and would instantly straighten up as my way to relax. I became as stiff as a board as soon as the word “relax” was used. I obviously wasn’t intentionally attempting to look tense in my efforts to relax, but nothing seemed to work as my shoulders stiffened.
If telling me to relax won’t work, then what does? Speak frequently. Those who haven’t made the determined leap yet to improve their public-speaking skills may do the opposite by avoiding every situation possible. I know, because I was one of them. The more I avoided the situations, the more intense the elevated anxiety would be prior to the inevitable time when I did have to finally speak publicly. I learned that I had to speak, and speak, and speak some more. I began to volunteer to present. Volunteers are often asked for, and, obviously, not everyone jumps at these requests. I also became proactive in contacting friends, family, and colleagues and asking to practice a speech in front of them. I have started many emails with, “I have an odd request…,” asking to practice in front of a group at work who had nothing to do with the topic I was talking about. I have found very few times when people have said no. My goal is to get to a point at which I look so relaxed that people don’t need to tell me to relax.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Down the Chute: A Toboggan Tale (children’s book)
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood