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What should you do when you get really nervous? How to stop sweating, turning red, shaking… What works and what doesn’t? Ideas discussed:

  • Should you imagine there are only friends and family in the audience?
  • Should you take deeper breath?
  • Should you drink ice water? How about drinking less caffeine?
  • And this is the cooling towel mentioned in this episode.

00:03 Welcome to Steal The Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. Physical reactions to fear present themselves in hives, sweat, redness, and sometimes shaky hands, shaky legs, and it sucks. It’s not a feeling you wanna have. And sometimes it’s just physical, sometimes it’s just something that happens and we feel like we can’t control it. And of course, if there’s something we feel we can’t control, well then it just gets worse and worse and worse because we try to control even more, and we get more anxious. The more anxious we get, the worse it gets. And I’m bringing this to you today because somebody tagged me in a post, or in their answer to a post that someone wrote because someone said they’ve got a speech, it’s written, it’s timed, it’s set, and she asked or she mentioned that she turns red and she breaks into hives when speaking. And she said, “Do you have any tips for me?” and this is out to her friends. And there were a number of tips that were offered, and I’m gonna share some of them with you, of course without sharing any names. This is all public on Facebook, it’s not something that was proprietary, but nonetheless, I’ll just share what was said rather than who said it. And then I’ll offer some suggestions of my own because I think that some of the suggestions you get to handle these kinds of physical reactions maybe more helpful than others.

01:42 So, one person suggested that they find different friends or family, or imagine them in different parts of the room and then talk to them. And then he’d ensure that he moved his gaze around the room, and even though he couldn’t see faces because of lighting, he felt comfortable knowing he was talking to people who loved him and wanted him to succeed. Well, I love the idea of thinking about the people in the room wanting you to succeed, and if it helps you to think about your friends or family, then do it for sure. I found that when trying to replace the people in the room with other people, that sometimes it takes you out of the moment, it takes you away from connecting with the people in the room. Now, again you know that I don’t believe there’s any one way to do anything when it comes to art. So you do what works for you for sure. I just caution you that taking yourself out of the space can often disconnect you from the people in the space.

03:00 Another person asked if any of their friends or family, or their husband was gonna be in the audience, and if they are, have them sit near at the back and pretend they’re the one… And then pretend they’re the only ones in the room, and then you’re having a one on one, or a small group chat. She said, it will calm the nerves and give you a place in the room to focus so you don’t become stiff and robotic when speaking. Well, you’re serving more than the room, so if you just focus on the back of the room, what about the rest of the people in the room. And for most speeches you give, your friends or your husband may not actually be there. So her advise was similar to the previous one, although this one was saying just focus on them and then you won’t become stiff and robotic, but I don’t think that necessarily focusing on them is going to decrease your anxiety because you know everybody else is still there. What you’re doing then, is just ignoring the people who are there. So similar to the previous comment.

04:02 Another person said that they take lots of deep relaxing breaths and are very vigilant about their thoughts, and that she reminds herself that God is present with her, then she prays for him to help her speak the words as someone in the audience needs to hear. And if that is something that works for you, if you’re religious, that can be very powerful, I imagine. I’m not, so it’s not something that resonates with me particularly. For me, my idea of spirituality is people. So I’m connecting with the people in the room. I am there to serve the people and I make that connection without the religious connection. So whatever connects you to the audience is certainly gonna be very very very helpful.

04:53 She also says that she suggests rehearsing quietly, and she said she rehearses quietly in her head without notes and it helps her own it, and that she accepts that the first few minutes she’s gonna be nervous, which is really really wonderful because that’s the acceptance of the nerves is a great way to manage the nerves. To say, “It’s okay. I’m gonna be a little bit nervous. Maybe I even get a little bit flushed, that’s okay. Maybe I even will sweat a little bit more than I might normally. That’s okay.” The rehearsing though, I would suggest doing out loud. And I think of course, if you’ve listened to the podcast you know how much rehearsal I suggest. The amount of rehearsal that you do should be proportionate to the stakes of that particular situation. So if it’s very low stakes, you may not need as much rehearsal, but if the stakes are very high, then you need a significant amount of rehearsal generally. And so, if… So what I just want you to do is I just want you to get out of your head ’cause thinking things is very different than saying those things. The timing is different, the feeling is different…

06:00 The actual articulation is different, so you can read… So for example, you can read a word on a page or a name on a page, but pronouncing it is different. If it’s a very difficult name, you could read it on a page, but pronouncing it requires that you say it out loud, and the same thing is true for your rehearsal. It makes a big difference to actually hear what you are saying. Then another person suggests ice water, to help sort of cool the body off. I don’t know if that would work biologically, maybe it does. So that’s something that I guess you could try. And then someone talks about some yogic breathing may do the trick, exhale longer than inhale. Ujjayi breathing, [06:56] ____ abdominal three-part breathing or things you can do discreetly. Now Ujjayi breathing is not something you do while speaking, that’s the thing that’s a little bit tricky. Even this kind of three-part breathing, until it is something that is organic and integrated into the way that you breath naturally while speaking, it might disconnect you from what you are doing.

07:21 So you see why the training of the voice, the training of the use of breath, and breath is really where your power comes from. If you don’t have use of your breath, if you don’t have control of your breath, then you generally are less grounded on stage, less substantial and seem a little bit flighty even. Sometimes you seem a little bit out of control, when you don’t have control of your breath. So breathing techniques, very very useful, but they are skills that you develop before you go out to give a presentation. Because you’re not gonna rise to the occasion when you give the presentation, without the training. You won’t all of a sudden have skill that you didn’t have before, just because you decide to rise to the occasion when you give the speech. I’ll give a very extreme example to make my point. If you’re given a automatic weapon and told that you would be called up to go into a firefight in Afghanistan, but you don’t have any experience with a weapon, you’ve never done any combat training whatsoever, you’ve never even held that kind of weapon before in your entire life, then they said, “Listen, we’re not gonna give you any training and/or how to use it, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out once the bullets start flying at your head.”

08:54 That’s a very extreme example, but I think it demonstrates the point. Unless you know how to handle that particular weapon, if you have the skill, till you have the skill to handle that particular weapon, you’re not gonna be able to handle it easily and quickly and without thinking about it, when you’re in that situation. So you will not be able to focus on what’s important. And the same thing is true when it comes to public speaking techniques. Now these are not life and death, you’re not gonna die on the stage if you are short on breath. You may just get a little bit flighty or maybe get a little bit red, but you’re not gonna fall over and die. That’s for sure. So one of the things that somebody recommends here is to cut down on caffeine, which actually can help. Caffeine’s a stimulant. Anything that’s a stimulant certainly can produce sweat or some hives, and that makes a lot of sense.

09:54 The next comment is my favorite comment of all, and it’s the reason that I became aware of this particular post in the thread, that accompany the post, is because someone said, “Check out Michael Port. He’s the best in the business on this, and he can teach you how to avoid this particular problem.” And I actually… I can’t tell you how to eliminate entirely, that would be… It would be false for me to say, “I can make sure that you never get any hives, that you never get nervous, that you never sweat, you never… ” The audience doesn’t care that much about that stuff, they care about you fighting through it. That’s what they’re interested in. It doesn’t matter to them if you are nervous. It doesn’t even matter to them if your hands shake a little bit. In fact you can comment on it, you can say, “Hey listen, I get a little bit nervous. I’m not a professional public speaker,” if you’re not, “but I really care deeply about this. I’m gonna do everything in my power to deliver on my promise, to help you, et cetera, et cetera.”

11:03 And this way, you’re making real, true connection with these folks. So the other things don’t matter as much. There were a number of other comments on here. Someone suggested essential oil. And then most people were… Most of the other ones were about wishing her luck, and that’s giving her encouragement that she’s gonna do great. And I think that is so important, to have people around you who support you, who encourage you, who’ve got your back. Some of our Heroic Public Speaking T-shirts, on the back it says, “We’ve got your back” because we do, and you need people around you who do have your back. One other thing that you could think about is a cooling towel. There’s a towel called Enduracool, instant cooling towel, from Mission Athletecare. And apparently, it’s made from some sort of fabric that instantly gets cooled when it’s soaked with water and then wrung out.

12:13 And then snapped into some device or something. But, anyhow, check that out and maybe that could help cool you down, if you’re feeling like you’re getting hives or sweating. And, that’s all for today. That is it. Now, make sure you read “Steal the Show” if you have not and also subscribe, rate, and review. I just do my best everyday to get up and serve you to the best of my ability. It is an honor to do so, I never take it for granted. I’ve been doing this for a long time now. I started coaching and training and advising in 2003. But every single person I meet feels like it’s the first time I’ve done it, meaning that’s how exciting it is for me. It’s so fun to see you transform, to see you progress. So, to hear from you in the reviews here means a lot. I read them. And to get an email from you just telling me how you’re doing makes a big, big difference. It really inspires me, so you can always reach me at And if you need public speaking training, go to, I love you very much and not in a weird way. But I love you for being a big thinker and for standing in the service of others as you stand in the service of your destiny. Bye for now.