Picture this: You’re giving an important speech and are feeling rather nervous. While you’re walking onto the stage, your one hope is that the audience won’t notice how terrified you are.
You start your speech, and to your dismay, you have a quavering voice and your hands are shaking.
If you’ve ever been in this position, you’ll understand just how unnerving this can be. The feeling that you have no control over your own body adds to your speech anxiety, causing you to shake even more.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to counteract uncontrollable shaking during public speaking. If you’re wondering how to stop shaking when you’re nervous about public speaking, follow the tips and tactics below.
Why Do You Shake?
A good starting point if you want to learn about how to stop shaking in public is to ask yourself: “Why does my voice shake when I’m nervous?”
Understanding the physiological processes that cause shaking can be helpful when you’re working on how to stop shivering while public speaking.
The reason why you start shaking when you’re scared is because of the flight-or-fight response, which is an evolutionary response humans developed to keep them safe in times of perceived danger.
When you’re scared, stress hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine flood your body, which causes your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood flow to your muscles to increase.
In preparation for possible quick action, your muscles also tense up, causing shaking in your body. These physiological responses are meant to prepare your body for immediate action in moments of danger.
While the flight-or-fight response is helpful when somebody is breaking into your house, it is kind of the last thing you need when you’re delivering a speech or presentation.
How To Stop Shaking When Speaking in Public
Now that you understand that your hands or legs shaking during a presentation is a normal physiological response to a stressful situation, you’re better equipped to deal with the issue of how to stop shaking when you’re nervous about public speaking.
From a physiological perspective, you’ve got to decrease the release of hormones such as adrenaline in your body when you’re anxious.
The million-dollar question, however, is, “How?”
Here are a few tried-and-tested ways in which you can curb seemingly uncontrollable shaking when speaking in public.
Change Your Thinking
The most effective and long-lasting way in which you can counter public speaking anxiety is to change your thinking, which in turn will affect your general attitude.
I mention this point first because it’s both the most effective and long-lasting way in which to curb your anxiety and also one of the most difficult processes to master.
The thinking pattern that you need to change if you’re wondering how to stop shaking when you’re nervous about public speaking is that of the inner critic.
This is the voice that keeps telling you that you’re going to bore your audience and stuff up your speech because you’re not good at public speaking. Such negative and self-sabotaging thoughts need to be quelled and replaced with encouraging and self-motivating thoughts.
It is entirely possible to change your thinking patterns if you’re dedicated to the process.
The first step is to become conscious of your negative thought patterns by paying closer attention to what you’re constantly saying to yourself. You then need to replace these thoughts with more positive ones.
You are just as well-equipped as anybody else out there to speak well in public.
Remind yourself that you’ve got a useful message to deliver and that you have more knowledge than your audience does on the topic.
It can also be helpful to make peace with any worst-case scenario that may occur during public speaking. Even if it doesn’t go well, it’s not the end of the world.
Control Your Breathing
While changing the way you think about public speaking is a very effective way to stop shaking, you won’t be able to change your approach overnight.
Since this is a longer-term solution, you also need to find ways in which you can immediately deal with shaking while speaking in public. One of the best immediate fixes is to control your breathing.
The flight-or-fight response is triggered by your sympathetic nervous system. When you breathe slowly and deeply, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is also referred to as the “rest and digest” state.
The parasympathetic nervous system calms the body down, allowing you to manage your stress responses and feel less anxious. Activating this nervous system will also stop you from shaking since it regulates your heart rate and the stress levels in the body.
Learning to relax through breathing is therefore a very effective tool. Here is a breathing exercise you can try before public speaking:
- Slowly breathe in through your nose for six seconds.
- Hold your breath for four seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth for seven seconds.
- Repeat the cycle a few times.
Meditation is a great way to calm your body and mind before a public speaking event. In fact, daily meditation can be very beneficial for your well-being in general.
Since meditation involves both your breathing and your thoughts, it also ties in nicely with the previous two tips I’ve provided.
Meditation provides a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind through controlled breathing, mantras, visualization, and consciousness of thought.
I have only recently started to meditate. For the longest time, I wanted to meditate but didn’t attempt it since I thought it would be too difficult.
When I eventually informed myself and gave meditation a try, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that anybody can do it.
All you need to do is find a quiet place where you can sit down. You then need to focus on your breathing. The idea is to slow your breathing down and breathe more deeply. However, you shouldn’t force things. Just start by focusing on how you inhale and exhale.
Your mind will inevitably start to wander away from your breathing at some point. When it happens, just take note and gently redirect your thoughts back to your breathing. Also, focus on your body and your senses. Take note of areas where you feel tightness or tension, and try to relax these muscles.
Although it can be challenging to become quiet and simply focus on your body and your breathing at first, you’ll find that with time and practice, you’ll be able to meditate for increasingly longer periods.
Get a Good Night’s Rest
Although it’s perhaps easier said than done for some, it’s important that you get a good night’s rest before a public speaking event.
In our modern world in which there is simply never enough time, many people opt to sleep less in order to fit everything in. In addition, daily stressors and anxiety also commonly cause sleeping disorders, such as insomnia, which, in turn, leads to more anxiety and poor performance during waking hours.
Getting a good night’s sleep, however, is crucial if you tend to shake when you speak in public. When you sleep well, the part of your brain that regulates emotional and physiological reactivity is restored and this helps to prevent anxiety.
If you’re stressed about your upcoming speech the next day, however, you may find it difficult to fall, and stay, asleep. Here are a few ways in which you can prevent a sleepless night:
- Avoid alcohol: Although you may feel like calming your nerves with a few drinks the night before your speech or presentation, it’s best to abstain if you wish to have a good night’s sleep. Alcohol will negatively affect the quality and duration of your sleep.
- Meditate: Feeling stressed and anxious can prevent you from falling asleep. To calm your mind and your body, put some time aside for meditation before your bedtime.
- Yoga: Yoga is another effective way of calming your body and mind. Yoga stretches and poses relax tense muscles in the body and release endorphins and other feel-good hormones. In addition, doing yoga also leads to slower and deeper breathing.
If you have a super important presentation or speech lying ahead and you are feeling terrified, it may be a good idea to ask your doctor to prescribe you beta-blockers.
While I don’t recommend taking medicine to curb anxiety in general, there are times when taking a pill can have more positive than negative effects. The good thing about beta blockers is that you cannot become addicted to them.
Beta-blockers are an effective way to stop you from shaking during public speaking because they prevent adrenaline from making contact with your heart’s beta receptors.
This means that even if you’re anxious and stressed out, beta-blockers will prevent your heart from pumping harder or faster, so you won’t have to deal with the physical effects of your anxiety. Be aware, though, that beta-blockers exclusively affect the physiological effects of anxiety. You will still feel scared and anxious but at least you won’t be shaking.