When new clients call me, it’s often because they want help with the nervousness and anxiety they feel when presenting or speaking in front of a group.
Public speaking can shake the confidence of even the most experienced professional. But it’s natural to feel nervous. After all, you’re on the spot. All eyes are upon you. You are being judged. The stakes are high. Stage fright is your indication that you care about the outcome, that it’s important to you–nothing wrong with that.
Still, there are ways to frame your thinking about stage fright that can help you manage it. Here are three principles to keep in mind before your palms begin to sweat and your voice starts to quiver:
Stage fright goes with the territory. It’s a form of “fight or flight,” the adaptive mechanism that helps us flee from or fight off danger. The heart pounds, sending blood and oxygen to the large muscle groups, perspiration increases to keep you cool, and dry-mouth occurs, because digestion takes a back seat. Unfortunately, the body cannot differentiate between one type of threat and another, so when you get up on stage to speak, the symptoms are similar. My advice is to stop trying to banish it, which only makes it worse. Professional and experienced speakers actually embrace it and the next principle explains why.
Stage fright is your friend. How is it possible something that feels so unpleasant can be useful? It makes you more engaging to watch, that’s how. You feel edgier, more awake, and alive and that translates to your audience. Some of that newly directed blood supply goes to certain centers in your brain, helping you to pivot and to handle the things that inevitably go wrong during every presentation.
Stage fright can be managed. I’m going to save a longer explanation about quick and efficient ways to practice presentations for the next post, but for now, let’s go back to “fight or flight.” A person who, for example, has lifted weights or run marathons is going to be much better able to fight off or run away from danger than someone who is out of shape. By the same token, a speaker who has prepared well will be much better able to manage the stage fright so it works for instead of against him or her.
Take the stage with confidence, because stage fright is the last thing you should be afraid of.
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