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Managing nerves: What to do when your body says ‘flight’.

|  —  04/10/16

When we get nervous, our body is flooded with adrenalin and cortisol – known as ‘stress hormones’.

It’s a throwback to thousands of years ago when the fear response was wired into our nervous system to give us the energy, speed, and strength we needed to escape danger and threats: the fight or flight response.

While this is useful when we are in physical danger, it’s not so helpful when our fear is of something more benign, like public speaking.

Unfortunately, our body responds the same way whether the fear is real or imagined.

A great way to manage nerves and get rid of excess energy in the lead up to something that makes you nervous – like a public speaking event, or job interview – is to exercise. Go for a run or walk, attend an exercise class, lift weights – do whatever works for you to burn off energy, distract you, and calm you down. Do it the morning of your big speech or presentation.

Then, if you’re still feeling nervous right before your event, go somewhere no-one can see you (off-stage, or even in a toilet cubicle if you must) and jump up and down, shake your arms and legs, give your head a good roll, and let the tension go.

Channel your inner rock star; think of footage you’ve seen of musicians backstage right before a concert starts. Do that, but without the vodka.

Your aim is to get rid of the excess adrenalin, but harness the energy that remains to deliver an engaging presentation, without bouncing off the walls or speaking at warp speed. You want to use that leftover energy to help you convey your enthusiasm and passion.

Finally, right before you start your presentation, settle things down and breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. It sounds obvious, but many of us naturally hold our breath when we’re stressed. That’s why personal trainers have to remind you to breathe when you lift heavy weights.

The same goes when you’re about to deliver a presentation. Breathe. In through the nose slowly, then out through the mouth. It works wonders.

If you’d like more tips on how to manage nerves, come along to my public speaking workshop this Monday night , 10 October, from 7-9pm at Moe Service Centre (new Moe Library), 1-29 George Street, Moe.

 Tickets are $50 (includes supper and certificate of completion) and available at

Exercise is a great way to manage nerves before a big presentation or public speaking event.

Leah Mether is a communication and soft skills trainer obsessed with making the people part of leadership and work life easier.

With more than 15 years’ experience working with thousands of clients, and an acclaimed book to her name, Leah knows what it takes to communicate under pressure. Like you, she knows the challenge of conflict, personality clashes, and difficult conversations.

Leah is renowned for her practical, engaging, straight-shooting style. Utilising her Five Cs® model of communication, she helps leaders and teams shift from knowing to doing, and radically improve their effectiveness.

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