How To Deal With Stage-Fright During Public Speaking

How To Deal With Stage-Fright During Public Speaking


Let's carve and reduce this Stage Fright Bully down to size. When wrestling with speaking fears and stress, keep the following six secrets in mind :

1. It is perfectly natural to be anxious. If speaking or the mere prospect of speaking scares you, you are in the majority. Speaking in public often intimidates even professional speakers and actors who make their living onstage. If pros with thousands of hours of speaking experience, whose very livelihood depends on speaking confidently, become nervous, then it is certainly natural for someone who speaks infrequently to experience anxiety. You just do not want your anxiety to impair your speech or to become so severe that it drives you bonkers.The best speakers know enough to be scared. Stage fright is the sweat of perfection. The only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly information.

2. Your worst fears rarely materialize. Your imagination can be ludicrously wild when you are preparing to speak. You might visualize the worst occurring: your knees knock, you hyperventilate, you babble incoherently, you faint, and you are publicly humiliated. Such fears are imaginary, as these results rarely materialize, so stop cringing, breathe deeply, and get a grip on yourself. There are no known deaths attributed to stage fright, so the odds favor you.

3. It always seems worse to the speaker. Immediately after making a presentation, many speakers swear that they had never been so nervous in their lives, that their hands had never before shaken that way, and that their knees had never before wobbled like that. But when they videotape the speech, and immediately review it. Typically, they are surprised to discover that they appeared far more poised than they felt.

When you are speaking, with hundreds of eyes focused on you, you often feel intimidated, and your anxiety is naturally heightened. You can become your harshest critic. But rest assured: though you may be scared stiff, your audience generally has no clue—unless you look wild-eyed, ghastly pale, or ramrod rigid. 

4. Your audience empathizes with you. Every member of your audience has felt some level of anxiety when it has been his own turn to speak. Anyone who denies it is fibbing. As a result, many of them are looking at you with admiration and awe for having the courage to stand and speak.

5. Your audience wants you to succeed. The members of your audience have come to hear you speak for a variety of reasons: to be informed, to be entertained, or perhaps to be inspired. They regard you as the expert, and they want their expectations fulfilled. Your listeners want you to succeed, for the simple reason that your success will benefit them. It is a collaborative effort: you want to give a good speech, and they want to hear one. Dispel the notion that your audience is lying in wait, ready to pounce on any mistake.

6. Your audience has never heard your presentation. Speakers often scowl and scold themselves (or even let a few invectives fly) when they forget a word, a line, or a point. But remember: your audience has never heard your speech before. No one is monitoring what you say, line by line, word for word. No one will shout, “Hey, Bonehead, you forgot something!” In fact, listeners rarely know that you flubbed a line or dropped a thought. You can deliver an exceptional speech that only you realize is less than perfect—and you don’t have to tell anyone.

Audience members do not know what you planned to say; they know only what you said. That knowledge should reduce your stress, because it affords you the freedom to omit something with very little risk. Of course, if you wince, curse, or mutter, “Dadgumit—I blew it,” you will highlight the gaffe for your audience. Fight the urge to be honest in these situations (your mother will understand).

Learn to positively channel your anxiety, because the speaking game is often won or lost at this stage. If you want to speak with confidence, you have to believe that you can. Rein in your fertile imagination. Learn to transform your anxiety into an asset, and you will take gigantic strides in the right direction. In the meantime, if you are frantic, try to relax, for goodness’ sake—and stay away from sharp objects. 

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