Monday, November 24, 2014

Controlling Your Nerves–Part 3

Late one night, I got an email from Renee Swope.  “Are you still up?  Call me!”  Renee and her family had just gotten the exciting news that it was time to go get Aster, their daughter that they were adopting from Ethiopia.  Renee asked if I could cover one of her events in California, and I happily answered “yes”.

In the weeks before the event, I had several wonderful talks with the coordinator, prepared my messages and packed for CA with excitement.  Renee had warned me that it’s a fun trip but a hard trip.  “Friday night is especially hard,” she explained, “for a speaker when your body is screaming to go to bed about the time that you stand to speak.”

I felt the typical flutters as I was being introduced, but I square breathed through it as I stood to speak.  I can’t really tell you what happened after that.  Although I wasn’t nervous, I felt flat and tired.  I’m a big face reader (not always a good idea as you’ll see), so I scanned the crowd for engaged, smiling faces without finding one.  My funny stories got little patters of laughter, and I felt disconnected and unfocused.

I walked back to my room alone and in a panic.  I was failing.  I had failed the women at the event.  I had failed Renee.  I was failing God in my weekend assignment.  The night was one of tossing and turning, and then I dragged my tired body out of bed to pray at dawn.  As I walked down to the camp pond, I was overcome with discouragement and the heavy weight of responsibility.  How could I spend the rest of the weekend with these women?  I had blown the first impression, and I cried out to God to redeem the weekend.

In mid-plea, God’s firm but gentle voice rang through my head, “Amy if you will take your eyes off yourself and fix them on me…if you will fix your eyes on me and love the women here, it will all be ok.”

fail

In the silence of the morning with the rosy dawn painting the surface of the pond, my heart settled and rested.  God had given me something I could do, so I began to pray.  I praised God for who He is.  I thanked Him for the many good things that He had been doing.  I asked Him to pour His love for the women at the event into my heart.  Finally, I asked God to speak through me for the rest of the weekend–not for my sake but for the women there.

The breakfast bell rang, and as I walked into the bright cafeteria, women began to approach me.  One after another wanted to share what God had spoken to them through me the night before.  I couldn’t believe it!  I’m still not sure what happened or why I thought I had done so miserably.  Maybe the women had been as tired as I was.  Maybe it was just a less emotional group.  I really don’t know to this day.

What I do know is that God had used the situation to teach me the best tip yet about managing my nerves.  Focus on Him and love the women that I am speaking to.   Those things take my eyes off my own performance and settle me heart and nerves.

This wraps up our series on managing your nerves, but we’d still love to hear your tips.

This is the last blog post until the New Year. I’m taking a December blogging break, so I’d like to wish you a very merry Christmas!

Amy

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Controlling Your Nerves–Part 2

 

When I get nervous, I start to lose my breath which isn’t great for a speaker.

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I want my audience to be at ease as I start, and a shaky voice just doesn’t do it.  I struggled for a long time with this problem until one day I heard a radio personality talk about a method called square breathing.

Although my nervousness has lessened with time and practice, I still feel the butterflies start during my introduction.  I’ve learned to embrace a little nervousness as a natural adrenaline rush that will help me open with energy, but I want to have a steady voice.  Square breathing has been the answer for me.  Here are the steps:

  • While counting to 4, inhale slowly through your nose.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to 4.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

I think this works for several reasons.  It makes me slow my breathing down which keeps me from hyperventilating.  It floods my body with oxygen which helps clear and sharpen my mind.  It also gives my brain something to do (counting) besides thinking about how nervous I am!

I hope this simple, practical tip will be helpful.  If you have any tips, please share them in the comments.

Amy

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Controlling Your Nerves–Part 1

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic of controlling my nerves before I speak. While my nerves have settled over time (if you struggle, I promise it gets better with practice), they still flair up. If the setting is different, if there’s someone I esteem in the audience, or if I haven’t had time to prepare, I can still find myself overwhelmed with nervousness.

At She Speaks last summer, I felt fine on the stage in front of 400+ women, but I fell apart when I had to read introductions at the beginning of breakouts. Go figure!

Nerves can hit at the strangest times, but with a few tips, we can learn to manage them. This series is a “re-run”, but I thought it was a topic it would be useful to revisit. Today’s is fantastic advice from Lysa TerKeurst!

You have less than 5 seconds to make your first impression on an audience.  If those first 5 seconds are spend shuffling notes, grabbing the podium for dear life, and trying to catch your run away breath… your audience will start to feel as nervous as you do.

The best way I know to calm my nerves right away and set the audience at ease is to make the first words out of my mouth something I can say confidently and boldly without notes and without hesitation.  After just a few profound sentences that lead my audience to know the exact point of my message, I transition into a personal story that relates to my point.

Personal stories are great because you don’t need notes, your personality can shine through, and people are captivated by stories.  When you feel you have your audience captivated, your nerves will dissipate!  It’s amazing what confidence this builds in you and what connection it creates with the audience.

My only word of caution is to remember your transition from the end of your story back to the point of your message.  You don’t want to make it all the way down the field only to fumble at the goal line.  I have no idea why I just used a sports analogy, but it worked.

Happy speaking sweet friends!

lysaLysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith through following Jesus Christ. As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa has led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey.

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