Overcoming Nerves

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Whether it’s shooting a wedding, speaking in public or having to send a client their final products, being nervous is a perfectly natural feeling. Although we hate them, and some of us find them massively crippling, nerves are actually very useful. They sharpen the mind, get the adrenaline pumping and really help you to focus. However if you let them they can take over and really get the better of you.

These days I do a lot of public speaking, but in school it was the thing I dreaded more than anything else. If I ever had to stand up and give any kind of presentation in class I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before and I’d do anything I possibly could to get out of it.

When I was first asked to speak in public as Rock n Roll Bride I was similarly terrified. In fact I’m still utterly crapping it before I have to do it now, but I’ve learnt a few things that have helped me get better at it. I now think back to that first ever talk I had to do (for the British Journal of Photography no less!) and I cringe so much about how bad I was. But you know what, you can only get better each time to do something right?!

Practice makes… better

So I totally stole this line from Paul Jarvis’ new book, Everything I Know,
which I’ve been reading recently (it really is ace by the way). “Perfection is a myth, so practice can never make perfect”, he writes, “In fact, all that striving for perfection can actually lead you away from launching anything. The path to perfection makes it almost impossible to get your work out the door, because nothing will ever be perfect. Focus instead on great enough to launch and perfect enough for your audience to enjoy.”

Contrary to the cliché, practice does not make perfect. There is no such thing as perfect. But what it does do is makes you better. With each and every try you are getting closer and closer to being better, good even. The more you practice something, the less intimidating it becomes, and the better you get at it. Simple.

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Ask for feedback

Before you go to do the thing you’re nervous about, show it to someone who’s opinion you trust and ask for some feedback. Maybe you have a friend in the industry who wouldn’t mind looking over some of your work or you need to do a practice run of your speech in front of your partner.

Getting someone else’s opinion on whether something is ‘good’ or not, and maybe even a few tips on how you can improve, will massively boost your confidence.

Don’t imagine everybody naked

Seriously, just don’t. If anything, depending on your audience, it could be quite an alarming mental picture! Whatever it is you’re nervous about – speaking in public, shooting your first wedding, sending that pitch into a magazine or blog – just remember that the people at the other end are only human too.

Also realise that IT IS JUST SPEAKING / SHOOTING / EMAILING. You do this everyday. The actual action you have to take is not difficult, it is just your mind that is making it seem that way.

Also realise that the worst thing someone can do is not enjoy what you have to offer, and that reaction is completely out of your control. All you can control is how you’re going to go about doing the very best job you can.

The other thing to realise, if its public speaking or performing in some way, is that the people watching you are on your side. They’ve booked you or paid you for your services. They’re not going to be sitting there giving you daggers and judging everything you say or do. They want you to do a good job too.

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Focus on how you’ll feel AFTER you’ve done it

Finally, instead of stressing about the actual thing you have to do and all the things that could go wrong, focus on how you’ll feel after you’ve done it. Elated? Proud? Excited? Let these feelings and that energy drive you as you prepare for the event instead of the nerves.

Dude, you’ve got this. You are awesome at what you do and you’re going to go out there and SMASH it.

Supporting Cast

5 comments

  1. Thank you for this. you’ve no idea how helpful this was to me right now. Weirdly- your timing was perfect. Tomorrow- i have to stand up in front of 300+ welsh brides and wedding professionals GULP and give a presentation on my little welsh wedding blog that has now turned into a monster…A big friendly one. THANK YOU xxxxx

  2. I remember the school nerves thing – I totally dried up during a class presentation when I was about 12, and the terror of public speaking has pretty much followed me around ever since! Speaking in public is now very much part of my job too and I completely agree that the more you do of something, the better you get and easier it becomes. Plus, the audience do really want you to do well too.x

  3. This couldn’t have come at a better time :) I am dreading a work presentation that I have to deliver on thursday but thanks to your wonderful advice I am feeling a little less scared xxx

  4. This is really great advice. I recently held my first papercutting workshop and was so nervous to speak about my work and how I do what I do to a room full of people. The one thing that helped me get through it was thinking that these people had paid me to be there, and as you say – they wanted me to do well, which really helped me relax.

    I’ve got a few more workshops booked for early next year so I’ll definitely just be aiming to get better and better each time I run them and not aim for perfection….which would just make me so nervous I’d forget what to say!

    I love the concept of perfect being a myth, it really takes the pressure off :)

  5. Having had to do public speaking for some time know I’d rather do that to a packed wembly stadium rather than do an exam!
    The more you do it the Easyer nerves are to manage! And remember you have knowledge to impart, often you will know more than your audience, or you will be giving a different perspective to what their views are! So ++ but also you have been asked! Yes asked to speak so they value you & your opinions
    Good luck for your journeys & thanks again RRB

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