I believe in the power of a great script – I am a speechwriter after all. But I also know a terrific script can’t guarantee a great speech if you’re scared to death to stand in front of an audience. And the fact is, most of us start off feeling pretty scared and have to find ways to calm down, if we want to speak effectively.
Presentation coaches can help. Practice, practice, practice did the trick for me (along with getting in touch with my inner ham.) But the most interesting and unusual cure for sweaty palms has to be the one discovered by Earl Furfine, a serial entrepreneur, IT professional and… endurance racer.
Furfine wrote recently about his first real open-water swim, part of an Olympic distance triathlon. He entered the water nervous about swimming in Atlantic’s waves. About a third of the way through, he caught a glimpse of something swimming by that scared the daylights out of him. He stopped, screamed, but couldn’t find the creature. He resumed swimming BUT THERE IT WAS AGAIN. This time he reached out to grab the beast…and snared his right wrist in his left palm.
The creature was his own hand, obscured by the murky water.
And exactly what does this have to do with speaking? Furfine reports that he used to get very nervous when he had to speak publicly. But now when that happens, he grabs his right hand, the way he did in the water. It makes him smile, and gets him breathing calming again as he heads for the podium.
We can’t all be triathletes, but if we can find a way to remind ourselves that fear of speaking is self-induced, it can help make that fear go away.