“Inhale courage, exhale fear.” ― What can you do to overcome your stage fright? [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]
Fear triggers our fight-or-flight response.
Whenever we feel afraid, adrenaline courses through our bloodstreams, making us ready to strike or flee.
Let’s put this in the context of public speaking…
If you experience an adrenaline rush during your speech or presentation, you might feel more motivated and energized as you talk on stage.
However, too much of this hormone is not ideal because it can dry your mouth, tighten your throat, and make you feel nervous.
Additionally, too much adrenaline can also cause your muscles to twitch, hence the shaking you feel on your knees when you’re anxious to present in front of an audience.
American TV personality Monica Lewinsky described the intensity of her nervousness when she delivered a TED talk titled, “The Price of Shame” in 2015.
When asked about how she overcame her emotions, she said:
“In some forms of meditation, the guidance is to return to the breath or your mantra when your mind wanders or ‘monkey mind’ sets in. I did that with my anxiety. I tried my best to return to the purpose of my speech as often as possible. One of my 2 mantras was, ‘THIS MATTERS.’ The other mantra that worked well for me was ‘I’VE GOT THIS.’
Throughout the process, when faced with self-doubt, I focused as much as I could on the message to deliver, instead of the messenger. Whenever I felt nervous or unsure, I had to simply steel myself and try to self-reason that all I could do was my best… and that if I could reach one person with my message and help just one person feel less alone in their experience of shame and online humiliation, it would be worth it.”
Should you exactly do what Lewinsky did to overcome stage fright?
The answer is NO. Every speaker has different mechanisms to overcome anxiety or stage fright.
The fact that Lewinsky was able to turn her fear into a calm, confident, and engaging stage presence should encourage you that it’s possible to turn things around to your advantage.
Here’s what TED’s curator, Chris Anderson, recommends you to do whenever you feel nervous in your speech or presentation:
Use your fear as motivation.
Don’t let anxiety kill your confidence as a speaker.
Face your fear! Use it as motivation to exert effort and practice your talk as many times as it takes.
As you do that, your confidence will increase, the intensity of your nervousness will die down, and you’ll be able to effectively deliver your message on the actual day of your presentation.
Allow your body to help you.
There are a few things you can do before going on stage that will help overcome your adrenaline rush.
For example: If you’re seated among the audience while waiting to be introduced, you can do some breathing exercises to help calm your nerves.
Inhale… Exhale… Inhale… Exhale…
Repeat a few times more for as long as you deem necessary.
Doing so will infuse a sufficient amount of oxygen in your system and will help bring relaxation to your body.
In another instance, if you’re off-stage and you feel a huge amount of tension surging through your body, it’s worth trying to do several physical exercises―walking around, jumping, stretching, doing push-ups, etc.
However, don’t do too much exercise to the point where you’ll come up on stage sweaty and untidy. Do just enough to help release the nervousness you feel!
Stay hydrated throughout your talk.
One of the worst-case scenarios in public speaking is when too much adrenaline sucks the water from your mouth, causing you to struggle to speak.
That’s a reason why you have to make sure you’re fully hydrated before delivering your speech or presentation. A few minutes before your talk, drink at least a third of a bottle of water. Doing so will help stop your mouth from getting dry.
You may also bring a bottle of water with you as you present on stage, so that every time you feel like your throat is itching, you can pause for a moment and take a sip.
Note: Don’t drink a lot of water too early or too many times before your talk. This might cause you to rush to the restroom when you’re about to come out on stage!
Make sure your stomach is full before you present on stage.
When you’re nervous, the tendency is you feel full or you don’t want to eat.
We understand how that feels!
However, you have to keep in mind that an empty stomach generates acid, which can also exacerbate anxiety.
Eat some healthy food an hour or so before your actual presentation, or have a protein bar on hand. Your brain needs energy to function well, so stuff your body with food that will help you get through your talk.
Have a back-up plan.
There’s a possibility of things going wrong as you present and as a speaker, you have to make sure you have a few back-ups in place.
Scared that you might forget what you have to say?
Have a note or script within your reach.
Afraid that there might be a technical difficulty and you’ll have to adlib?
Have a little story for your audience. You may start with:
“While they sort that thing out, let me share with you a conversation I had with a business executive…”
“This is great. Now I have time to mention something I had to cut from the talk due to time reasons…”
“Now that we have a few extra minutes, let me ask you a question…”
… and more.
Doing so will distract you from your anxiety and at the same time, will help you and your audience interact while you’re all waiting for things to get fixed.
Focus on your message.
Your message MATTERS.
When you present on stage, it’s not just about you. It’s also about the idea or concept you’re talking about.
Part of your job as a speaker is to impart knowledge that your audience will find useful in their lives. If you keep that in mind as you walk onto the stage, you’ll find it liberating.
The fear or nervousness you feel is not all a curse in public speaking. You can use that emotion to good effect!
Always remember: Every time you feel a surge of anxiety in the hours leading to your talk, don’t run―face your fear.
Be in control of your body, gather your courage, and go!
Give your audience a presentation to remember.
It’s easier said than done, but with proper practice and by applying these tips in your next speech or presentation, you’ll be able to overcome the negative emotions you feel and effectively get your message across.
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”
In a meeting with one person
…a boardroom with five people
…or a huge venue with hundreds of people
—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.
No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.
What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?
Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.
The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.
(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)
Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.
Have that advantage.
Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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