Understand the Stress Response: Skate park vs public speaking

After the skate park
After the Skate Park

I like to rollerblade and thought the skate park would be fun.
Here’s what I learned…
Firstly, the straight ramps are very different to the curved ramps.
After 15 minutes of sensibly building my confidence on the straight ramps I jumped down a curved ramp. About a minute later I woke up face down on the concrete with sticky stuff all over my face and shirt (turns out it was blood). Not good.
“Hey mister, are you ok?”  I felt bad about blooding up their ramp, but the teen skaters seemed to accept me into their fold. After I stood up and assured them I was ok, the next comments were;

  • “Hey, we’ve all done it.”
  • “I just got the pins out of my leg last week.”
  • “Have a look at my scar…”
  • “Yeah! Have a look at these scars.”

This put a smile on my face as I headed off to the doctor.

Control anxiety by understanding the Stress Response

How does this link to public speaking?
Good question. The experience gave me an additional first-hand experience with the effects of adrenaline (epinephrine).
While waiting for the doctor to stitch me up, my hands started shaking, and later my whole body started shaking. I started to worry that I’d fried my brain or had some sort of nerve damage!
But I was assured it was a normal symptom of mild shock and just the result of all the adrenaline released by the body.
This understanding that it was normal and predictable released my concern about the shaking, after which I felt quite calm even though I was still ‘shaking like a leaf’.

You’re not your anxiety. You’re observing your anxiety

This is a great lesson for anyone who has experienced shaking as a result of the normal Stress Response we experience when speaking in public.
A shaking hand is not a problem when you speak. It’s fearful thoughts (my mind/body is out of control or unreliable, it might let me down in front of everybody and I’ll make a fool of myself, etc, etc) that are the problem.
However when you realize that a little shaking is normal and won’t stop you from engaging your audience, you can stay calm even as you notice this or some other physical symptom of nervousness.
So, all in all a worthwhile afternoon at the skate park; I made some new friends, found another story to help people see stage fright from a different angle, had 5 stitches and got some encouragement from a nice nurse who assured me that facial scars add character to one’s face and everybody should have at least one!
Now I’m one-of-the-boys at Riverside Skate Park, but for various reasons I’ve been a little busy to hit the curved ramps lately…
If you’d like to how to control nerves when making speeches or presentations, consider: