Nerve Bugs

Recently our daughter (also known as Sweetly Six) had an issue that she wanted to discuss with one of her teachers. In preparation for her conversation, she told me that she had “Nerve Bugs.”

“What are Nerve Bugs?” I asked.  “They are when you have butterflies flying around in your tummy,” she said.  Wowsy. Bowsy.

This week I am embarking on an exciting new project that will include film work. I’ve never done anything on film and even writing this gives me Sweetly Six’s “Nerve Bugs.”

In preparation for my film project, Sweetly Six said to me, “Momma, let’s practice your lines (i.e., script).” (Sweetly Six has been “acting” since the age of 2 ½. Simply stated, she loves performing and is all about “practicing lines”!)

In response to her suggestion (about practicing my lines), I thought, “Why not?” As I started talking, she interrupted me and said, “No, Momma. That’s not your real voice. You don’t sound like you.”  Lo and behold she was spot on. My “Nerve Bugs” were acting out – in a big way!  Then she told me to take a big breath, “the kind from your tummy and try again.” Classic…and incredibly intuitive (Silver Lining).

Despite the fact that public speaking has been a part of my career for the last seven years, I always, inevitably get “Nerve Bugs.” Prior to speaking, my stomach is queasy and my palms are sweaty. Depending on the situation, sometimes my legs even feel like jelly.

The Silver Lining is that I have finally figured out how to not let those “Nerve Bugs” get the better of me. Notice I didn’t say to get rid of my “Nerve Bugs.” What I’ve learned is that nervous energy can be used to your advantage. When you are in a heightened state from the adrenaline that is being pumped into your body, you can use that energy to communicate enthusiastically, convincingly, and passionately. The key is to decrease your level of nervousness so you can channel your energy on positive activities, not on trying to control your nerves.

By controlling as much of the uncertainly as I can (e.g., preparation and practice), I am able to increase my confidence in my ability to deliver the best presentation that I can. This confidence then contains my Nerve Bugs which thereby creates a positive cycle for myself (Silver Lining).

Additionally, here are some other the things that I do to harness the “Nerve Bugs”:

  1. Trace figure eights on your hands or legs with your fingertips. This releases nerves and helps you to relax.
  2. Press and massage your forehead to bring to energy the front of the brain and speech center.
  3. Give your shoulders a quick massage. This will help you loosen up and relax.
  4. Tell yourself you are going to do great. Remind yourself that you are doing whatever it is for fun and it only matters how good you feel you do, not how good everyone else feels you do. Also remind yourself of previous successes you have had.
  5. Just before you start talking, pause, make eye contact, and smile. This last moment of peace is very relaxing and gives you time to adjust to being the centre of attention. Smiling is a natural relaxant that sends positive chemicals through your body.
  6. Practice deep breathing. Adrenaline causes you to breath shallowly. By breathing deeply your brain will get the oxygen it needs and the slower pace will trick your body into believing you are calmer.
  7. Know Your Material. There is nothing more comforting than knowing the topic about which you are going to speak. This knowledge allows you deliver your information in a more conversational manner which is often more believable.
  8. Know Your Audience. Who are they? What are they expecting to hear? The more confident you are that you are presenting your audience with useful and interesting material for them, the less nervous you will be overall.
  9. Practice, Practice, Practice. Although it’s best to avoid memorizing a presentation, you do want to be very comfortable with your delivery. Familiarity brings confidence, and practice helps you to deliver the words naturally. This means they will be coming more from your heart and mind, rather than from a piece of paper.
  10. Stop Thinking About Yourself. Remember that the audience is there there to get some information and it is your job to put it across to them.
  11. Speak more slowly than you would in a conversation, and leave longer pauses between sentences. This slower pace will calm you down, and it will also make you easier to hear, especially at the back of a large room.
  12. Drink water – adrenaline can cause a dry mouth, which in turn leads to getting tongue-tied. Have a glass of water handy. Take sips occasionally, especially when you want to emphasize a point.

Nerve Bugs are not your enemy. They can actually be your friends (Silver Lining)! Best wishes on your next speaking adventure!


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  1. Kim C says

    Wow! Perfect timing! I'm speaking today and also must manage those nerve bugs. I talk regularly and have the same recurring bugs. I woke up with them today. Thank you for this helpful post! Will print it and keep it in my pocket.