Find Your Paperclip: Dealing With Last Minute Nerves

Find Your Paperclip: Dealing With Last Minute Nerves

This post is written by Vivien Ip

You have spent countless hours preparing and rehearsing your speech. You know the words so well you recite them in your sleep. One last thing still sends chills up and down your spine: how will the audience react?

Is there a way one can get over last minute jitters?

Many years ago I watched the movie Maid in Manhattan, and saw the tip to have a paperclip (or multiple) in your hand to help you deal with your public speaking nerves. Personally I am against following this tip to the letter. Unless you are sure your entire speech will be done behind a podium, lectern, or in any situation where you can have a closed fist at all times, you will invariably need natural and purposeful hand gestures.

Last minute jitters surfaced when I was hammering out my Humorist Speech back in 2012 (a speech that would end up taking me all the way to the top spot in my province). I knew the words, I knew my speech, but I was still nervous about the audience’s reception. I went in search of my own “paperclip”, and I would encourage you to think of these criteria if you want to find a paper clip of your own.

1) Remember what it is NOT: I am not asking you to find a lucky charm or anything else that makes you falsely believe a miracle will happen, just because you have it nearby. Great speeches take a lot of preparation and rehearsal time. Great speakers do not form overnight. Wearing your lucky socks while presenting a speech you haven’t rehearsed once, will likely not give you the result you were hoping for.

2) Choose practically: Please consider the size and nature of your “paperclip”. It must be something that fits into your pocket or is a piece of jewelry/clothing/accessory you can wear easily. It must not attract attention away from your speech and must give you the freedom to move comfortably. It must be something that is not so easily deciphered by the audience as the paperclip; think of it as your own little secret confidence booster.

3) Choose for the meaning: Every time I did my speech I wore the same necklace, a birthday present from my parents in high school. Although my mother did not particularly like the design, she bought it anyway because she knew I would like it. Although my parents have questioned my sanity and decision making skills more than once (mostly during my teenage years), their support has never wavered. The necklace became my reminder of that support, and it calmed me to know my parents would always have my back.

I would encourage the paperclip be chosen for the positive story it represents. Did you have a relative or a friend always believe in you? Did they give you a memento like an old pin or made up a quote that has really resonated with you? Use that as your paperclip and a source of inner support.

How to Be a Speaker: Have confidence in your speech and the hard work you have put into it. To give yourself an extra mental boost, choose a “paperclip” that reminds you about someone or something that has been a source of support in your life.

This post was written by
Vivien Ip is Toastmaster's District 21 Humorist Speech Champion for 2012-13. When she is not studying to become an Accountant, Vivien enjoys life in the Greater Vancouver area. She may often be found on the local mountains, taking a leisurely bike ride, or finding humour in every day mundane life.

3 Comments on "Find Your Paperclip: Dealing With Last Minute Nerves"

  • Good advice, Vivien. It has me thinking about what I might use for my own personal paper clip for a presentation this evening. Great visual, and reasoning behind it.

  • great article vivien! i really appreciated the first point of “remember what it is not” because you are so right-SOOO much work and preparation goes into a great speech but i do think that having something like that can help calm the nerves. thanks for sharing!

  • What a great idea. I had no idea how much work and effort goes into competing in a speech contest until I entered one. It is physically and mentally exhausting….I admire Ryan and all speech contestants that much more. I’m only at the area level, but I am going to use this idea to help me keep my cool.
    Thanks for the post.

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