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If you ever experienced a moment that came with a high amount of stress, you will probably know the feeling of seeing everything going wrong in your head. You imagine yourself having a nervous breakdown. Your hands start shaking, your voice starts trembling, or you don’t even know what to say. If you don’t want to end up like this, then make sure to study this article where David Beckett, the Pitch expert of Amsterdam, tells you how to get your nerves under control.
Where does the fear come from?
The reason we are so scared to go and stand in front of an audience has a deeper reason. It is more than just the failure to deliver a message or the feeling that you are alone and they are with many. According to David it has to do with the primal fear of becoming a social outcast. ‘It actually comes from a feeling that we might end up at the edge of the ‘pack’. In prehistorical times that meant that there was no food. That meant you would die’. Next to this deeper fear is the instinct. The fight-or-flee response it gives us, causes our brain to be only ready to act – not to think.
How to beat the brain?
Since it is impossible to avoid these peaks of stress, especially for StartUps, the best thing you could do is to “beat your brain”. There are numerous ways to do that, but according to David the most important ones are to 1). Prepare your pitch to the fullest. 2). Learn the first 60 seconds by heart and 3). Practice your pitch out loud.
Prepare your pitch
This first 60 seconds of your pitch are most important for getting your nerves under control, because you need this time to get into your flow and relax a little bit. If you already memorized your first 60 seconds, and you know that your very last 20 seconds are very important as well, you may as well just script it all! In a three minute pitch there is no time for improvisation. You can say about 280 words and that is it. The pressure is so much that, if you don’t practice and prepare, you might end up saying things you don’t want to say.
Memorize your pitch
When you write down and memorize every word you are going to say in the first stressful minute you also make things easier for your brain. It doesn’t have to think while your body is high on adrenaline. Because of the first 5 sentences you have memorized you can force yourself to act and deliver. Fight, don’t flee.
Practice your pitch out loud
An additional thing you can do to control your nerves is to practice your pitch out loud. ‘All the preparation is brain work, but on some point it becomes human work and that is when nerves kick in, because people haven’t practiced it out loud’. They haven’t heard themselves talking and when the moment of pitching is finally there, the brain goes like ‘What am I saying?’ Saying stuff out loud is better because in this way you get used to your own words & voice.
A simple trick to boost your confidence
Another really interesting thing David came up withis this clip from social psychologist Amy Cuddie. She is specialized in nonverbal behavior and the effects of social stimuli on hormone levels. In her second most watched TedTalk, Amy Cuddie states that ‘Your body language shapes who you are’. She introduces a body trick that can actually help to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase the testosterone level which gives you more confidence. This life hack is so simple, but surely effective: Adopt a high power pose and contain for 2 minutes. Stand wide out, spread your body or stretch. If you are curious about how this works then you should really watch the clip itself.