Chapter 2: Overcoming Stage Fright
Giving the Best You've Got
Again, public speaking doesn't require you to be fearless. It requires that you give your best despite your fears.
Recognize that the butterflies in your stomach may be uncomfortable for you but don't let them paralyze you and prevent you from achieving your goal.
So how can you do your best despite your fears? Use these tips:
- Make fear work for you: Instead of letting your fears hurt you, use them to energize you. Tell yourself,
I can beat this and do everything you can to meet the challenge ahead of you.
Again, fear is a normal response to a big event. When you're excited about something, the sensation tells your body to release a burst of adrenaline which may cause an increased pulse rate, sweaty palms,
and other nervous symptoms. But the adrenaline boost has good side effects too. It can inspire you to do your best.
- Prepare yourself: You can help to relieve some of the nervousness by adequately preparing for your presentation. Practice what you're going to say in front of a mirror and in front of other people.
Make sure you're not reading the material, but study it enough so that you know it from top to bottom. Try to predict the questions that your audience is going to have and develop clear responses to them.
Whatever you do, don't wait until the last minute to prepare because that will make you even more nervous.
- Envision your success: Fear of the unknown largely drives our anxieties.
By picturing yourself delivering a successful speech, you make your brain think you've presented the speech already and you'll minimize some of your anxiety.
- Greet your guests: If you meet and greet the audience members prior to your speech, it will make you feel like you know them and they'll feel like they know you.
That will make it easier to speak in front of them and may soothe your nerves.
- Make eye contact during your presentation: As you speak, scan the audience but don't be afraid to hold the gaze of a few people as you deliver certain sentences.
This will help you make a connection and it makes you feel better when you can see that people are paying attention to what you have to say.
- Realize that most of your nervousness is invisible. Even though we think the audience is clued in to our nervousness that's usually not the case.
Unless you let them know by saying things like
I'm so nervous or
I've really never done this before, the audience doesn't know how you really feel. You're probably doing better than you think.
- Control your volume: Don't just practice the content of your speech, rehearse your delivery too. If you notice that you speak too softly, practice speaking louder in your car or shower.
- Know that mistakes happen: No matter how much you practice or prepare for your speech, sometimes things go wrong.
Let's say you lose your train of thought or feel yourself rambling, pause and get yourself back on track by saying,
the point I'm trying to make is.
If something else happens, don't have a breakdown or draw your audience's attention to it. They probably didn't even notice your error and even if they did—most audiences are pretty forgiving.
If you make a mistake, the best thing you can do is keep the presentation moving.
- Get help: If your public speaking fears really wreak havoc in your life or put your in instant panic mode, then maybe you need professional help.
You can start by speaking to a psychologist or consider one of the highly successful fear-reducing approaches like...
- Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which you can further research by contacting Change That's Right Now (www.changethatsrightnow.com)
in New York or Bright Life Phobia and Anxiety Release Center (www.fearintopower.com) in Los Angeles;
- Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) which has practitioners listed on www.emofree.com; and
- The Lefkoe Method (TLM) which offers a fear reducing program that specifically deals with public speaking on www.speakingwithoutfear.com.
Though none of these methods work the same for everyone, they do boast success rates as high as 97% and some programs offer money-back guarantees.
Before you plunk down your cash, talk to other customers and conduct your research until you're convinced that a certain technique will work for you.
Hopefully, these suggestions will help you quell your fears the next time you need to give a speech.
In the meantime, know that each time you speak in front of an audience, you'll become more comfortable and that your efforts to overcome your stage fight will be well worth it.