Conquering presentation fears – changing your relationship with stage fright
When invited to take the stage to deliver their speeches, the majority of people, be it kids or adults, respond in the same way: heart starting to crash against the ribcage, mind going blank, cold sweat starting to break, throat seizing, knees weak, uttering “Errrr….” as long as he/ she could whilst intentionally dragging the time it takes to separate from the chair, hoping to buy as much time as possible to shake off the fear.
Fear of speaking in front of groups is frequent. Most of us find it unnecessary and nerve-wracking to take the initial step out of our comfortable seats in the audience and speak our first word on stage with discerning eyes levelling at us from the audience. This alone should persuade you that it is best to say “NO” to the first step – onto the speaking platform.
The hesitation to start stems from the assumption that communication and public speaking abilities are not important in today’s society and job. This couldn’t be further from the truth; in the modern business, communication skills play a significant role. Public speaking goes beyond the traditional presentation you make in front of an audience; it improves your capacity to convey complicated concepts to any audience in a clear, succinct, and persuasive way. Whether it’s a casual discussion in the elevator or a powerful corporate presentation, this is crucial!
We may avoid public speaking opportunities for a variety of reasons, including concern about audience ‘judgement’:
– “Why is he/her voice so weird or laughable?”,
– “Why am I wasting my time with this ugly toad?”,
– “Boring! Wasting everyone’s time only!”,
– “Oh my god, he/she just tripped over his/her words, fluffed his/her lines! Lol, what a joke!”,
– “He/She just cleared his/her throat with a huge blob of saliva in the middle of the speech! He/She must be nervous as hell! Look at the sweaty palms, look at the drenched underarm area of the shirt! Listen to the pause fillers, what a joke!”,
– “Listen to his/her accent, what a joke!”.
Yet, we KNOW that we NEED to be able to communicate effectively. With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, public speaking skills are no longer just nice to have; they will soon be essential in the job if you want to stay competitive and relevant.
The far-reaching negative impacts of NOT having effective presentation skills are:
- lots of missed opportunities when growing up (for kids) / building career (for adults) – getting disregarded or neglected for leadership opportunities in school, being invisible in class, etc.
- negative reinforcements being self-fed to myself and it will progressive harden – “I’m an introvert. I’ll just do the backend. Presenting is not my thing.”
- impairment of self-esteem
“Now, you can improve your value by 50 percent just by learning communication skills–public speaking. If that’s the case, see me after class and I’ll pay you $150,000.” – Warren Buffett, American billionaire investor, on a serious note, upped the ante from the original job offer of $100,000 to a room of Columbia University students back in 2009.
Effective Communication is part and parcel in our daily lives, it does not just revolve around public speaking (i.e. speaking to the masses) but also interpersonal influences from bargaining over commodities to pitching business ideas to persuading kids to go to bed!
Every specialist in public speaking began as a novice. I reiterate Every specialist in public speaking began as a novice.
Always, nurture triumphs over nature. This is a fundamental principle that the Public Speaking Academy upholds. Using tried and true methods, Public Speaking Academy works to improve its students’ abilities to present, convince, and influence with style and confidence, whether they are young children or adults.
Here are 6 tips that you can turn to the next time you feel the stage fright/ anxiety creeping up:
Tip #1. Keep Calm and Pause
We understand, you might be thinking “thank you for the breakthrough idea, keep clam?!” – but let me tell you something, when a person is so deep in the fear, the fearful thoughts, this is the one thing that is easier said than done (always forgotten) – be calm. A useful tactic is the pause. Pauses are a useful tool to utilize before you start speaking to calm yourself down and prepare your mind for your speech, in addition to using them during a speech. Imagine being asked to make an impromptu speech. As your mind races through the numerous arguments and anecdotes you have, mayhem ensues. Not just stopping and remaining silent for no reason, pausing requires deliberate thought in order to be a useful tool.
Pause to focus – stopping allows your mind to concentrate on the speech you are going to give rather of wandering off to think of other things. For instance, asking yourself, “What is my major point?” before you start speaking is one of the crucial questions I employ to assist a worried client in focusing. Before you begin speaking, give yourself a mental cue to help you proceed in a planned and composed manner.
Pause to visualize – beyond just taking a moment to breathe, pausing to visualize your speech in its entirety can be a useful communication technique. For instance, one of the important strategies I employ to relax before a crucial presentation is to quickly go over the key topics in a skeletal flow. By doing this, you can also make sure that your presentation is coherent. Consider that this is your final and hasty glance at the map before you start your public speaking career.
Pause to step out of the eye of the storm and observe outside of it – finally, pauses allow your thoughts to settle before you begin speaking by slowing down the agitation in your head. If you are having trouble getting over your worries of public speaking, taking a break backstage, away from the audience, will offer you the space you need to collect your thoughts and relax. Remember the old adage, “Keep calm and don’t panic”?
One of the frequent comments we get from our students is that pauses are scary or that they indicate lack of confidence. Instead, a brief pause of one to two seconds demonstrates that you are in control of your thoughts, your area on stage, and your interaction with the audience as a speaker. Taking a purposeful pause will help you to serve your purpose!
Watch: “How To Capture Your Audience Attention Without Saying A Word”
Tip #2. Change your relationship with presentation fears – with mindfulness
We don’t subscribe to the complete elimination of stage fright, stage anxiety – not an iota left – that’s seeking perfection and we don’t think perfection exists in this world haha.
We believe in changing our learners’ relationship with stage anxiety; we teach our students how to “befriend”/ manage their fear of public speaking instead of avoiding it.
The Public Speaking Academy Difference? Mindfulness Approach to Managing Nervousness when speaking in front of people.
Mindfulness – the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not unduly reactive or overwhelmed by what is happening around us. Is that about avoiding the fear as the well-meaning advice is always “Don’t afraid, don’t be nervous, pay no mind to it” – no, it’s actually staying with that anxious feeling and be familiar with it. That might sound insignificant, but when our mind wanders, we get disconnected from our physical selves and quickly become preoccupied with compulsive thoughts about the past or worry about the future. And that stresses us out.
We may become fixated on our thoughts when we think of ‘Mindfulness’ and ‘Meditation’ (both with a capital M): we’re going to do something about what’s going on in our heads. It seems as though our bodies are just cumbersome, ‘meaty’ containers that our thoughts must travel in. In fact, we shift our focus from the worrying thoughts to parts of our body, in order to stay in the present. For instance, when presentation fears hit us, we panic, and sometimes consequently, we forgot to breathe properly and find ourselves huffing and puffing. Focus on our chest, feel its movement – the rising and falling of the chest as you breathe – that’s mindfulness!
The body is where meditation begins and finishes. It entails taking the time to focus on where we are and what is happening, and that process begins with body awareness. Since our body has intrinsic rhythms that assist it in relaxing if we give it the chance, that simple act can be calming.
Watch: [Public Speaking Academy] Mindfulness For Stage Anxiety/Fright
Tip #3. Internalise Your Fear, Externalise Your Cheer
“I don’t know what to say”; “How do I make this story more exciting?” – We occasionally find ourselves speaking aloud our deepest worries in front of others. Some of our pupils often use these expressions before starting their speeches in class. The most frequent justifications for doing so involve “managing the audience’s expectation.”
By admitting your anxieties to the audience up front, you diminish their expectations and give them a chance to doubt your talents before you even begin. The audience has no notion what to expect from you on stage or from the topic of your speech. Flagging out your anxieties results in a self-fulfilling cycle where you feel dissatisfied at the conclusion of your presentation and your audience loses trust in you before you even begin. An excellent technique to manage the outcome of your presentation is to internalize and feel at ease with your worry.
Internalizing your anxiety about public speaking does not imply disregarding it. Instead, turning your concerns into motivation and projecting your joy through easy activities like smiling or pausing will help you prepare the audience for your excellent speech. The next time you feel the urge or temptation to express your anxieties aloud, focus that energy inwards instead and start radiating positivity by smiling and acting with assurance on stage!
Fear Exists. Let Cheer Persist!
Tip #4. Humanize your presence on stage
At Public Speaking Academy, we believe in remaining approachable and fulfilling the needs of the audience rather than coming across as a know-it-all and having a “Listen-to-me!” stage presence. Inappropriate and arrogant hand gestures and body language can give the impression that a speaker is powerful, although this is not necessarily the case. Share some relatable details of your life with the audience to make your speech more human. We all have fears, including those related to public speaking, commitment, mediocrity, failure, loneliness, heights, and spiders. Some would contend that disclosing one’s own fears exposes weaknesses or signals weakness.
We tend to perceive our audience as judgemental and unforgiving. As a result, we keep focusing on the “What-ifs” scenarios and therefore crippling ourselves with the those thoughts. Could the response not be “how my audience can benefit from what I am about to share/ speak about?”
Why not approach it positively? These are moments to participate in human-to-human stimulations and press emotional triggers to help your message stick. In the end, acceptance of your speech by your audience matters much more than the perfection of your performance. In fact, giving speeches and presentations isn’t only about disseminating knowledge. In actuality, it’s about forging bonds of familiarity through similar experiences to evoke a sense of unity. So now that you know that, start improving your ability to communicate effectively by acting; start feeling at ease using strategic power pauses and humanizing your stage presence.
Tip #5. Accumulate stage mileage
Public speaking is similar to cycling and swimming, we always tell my customers and pupils – Reading a book on successful communication or viewing a YouTube video alone (disclaimer: not saying that it is not useful, no, techniques and best practices can still be absorbed and acquired through books, blog articles, video etc. – just like investment, entrepreneurship, baking videos and many more) won’t be enough to enhance your public speaking abilities. Information by itself is never adequate. You would have to put those very abilities that you have read about and apply them (either in your workplace or in a presentation skills course). How you can accumulate your stage time/ stage mileage? Volunteer for your next presentation opportunity, without expecting it to be fantastic. Expect yourself to make mistakes, knowing that the following presentation will then be progressively better. Alternatively, you can put those presentation techniques into practice by enrolling in a live training program, where you can gain experience on stage and develop via regular, well-planned practice (s).
Tip #6. Effective self-talk to conquer presentation fears
Instead of the commonplace “you can do it!” or worse, instead of reinforcing “I will not fluff my lines.”, “My mind will not go blank.” and “I will not shake uncontrollably” (because the more you say “I WILL NOT…”, the higher the likelihood that you “WILL” do it), self-assure yourself with positive aspects such as “After this sharing, my audience will learn something new”, “more importantly, I will be able to convey my core message” and “I am going to enjoy expressing to impress”.
In addition, believe in your inner wisdom and never be overly critical on the specific aspects of the speech/ presentation or performance, instead, tell yourself to enjoy value-adding to your audience, even if it is just one single audience member out there in the sea of faces!
Watch: “Self Talk Your Way Out Of Stage Anxiety, Eliminate Your Fear Of Public Speaking”
Final Thought: A Single Baby Step is Better Than No Step At All!
Keep in mind that it is crucial to take a move, no matter how small, toward developing your public speaking expertise whenever anxiety or fear start to return. Instead of waiting for the ideal first step before taking the jump, start with little, basic steps. Although becoming a competent public speaker takes time, it cannot begin while you are still an audience member. The next time you have a chance to speak in front of an audience, seize the opportunity to steal the show!