|Â||MANAGING STAGE FRIGHT|
A recent study suggests that people unfamiliar with communication theory think that stage fright is caused mostly by what happens during the speech (Bippus & Daly, 1999). In actuality, what happens before the speech affects your state of mind as much-if not more-than the speech itself. In other words, practicing and preparing are two of the best ways to eliminate stage fright.
Overcoming Stage Fright
Practice in a place or situation as similar as possible to where you will be giving your talk. This includes practicing in front of people, preferably an experienced coach.
Watch or listen to other speeches, either in person or through (audio or video) recordings. Take note of what works and what doesn’t.
Use mental imagery to picture yourself in front of an audience. Try to become comfortable with the idea.
Before you practice, and again before you deliver your presentation, perform voice and breathing exercises to warm up your vocal cords.
If your hands shake, hold on to something like a small object, a pointer, or a lectern.
Have water with you if possible, both during practice and while presenting.
Take pauses and breathe normally.
Try to establish a dialogue with the audience. This will make the whole experience feel more natural.
IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HOW ACTING SKILLS HELP DEALAING WITH FEAR READ ON.
AND HERE IS AN ARTICLE I WROTE ABOUT FEAR A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO.
Â The gift
Â How doÂ you prepare yourself to tell the world about your gift as an artist, as an entrepreneur?
Â As an Acting Coach and Public Speaking Coach I deal with artists and presenters of all sorts who want to effectively communicate their gift.Â What is your gift?Â Can you put it in a sentence?Â Are you passionate about it?Â Do you realize that it can change peopleâ€™s lives?Â Do you focus on this gift when you speak?, Because, you see,Â itâ€™s not abut you.Â Itâ€™s about the gift you are giving.Â If you have nothing to give to an audience, donâ€™t speak.Â
Â My gift is the ability to inspire and validate artists and speakers helping them realize that their gift makes a difference and teaching them acting skills and authenticity to deliver it effectively.
Is your gift to soothe peopleâ€™s souls?Â To inspire them to believe in themselves?Â Â To impartÂ information they can use in their professions?Â You name it.Â Â This gift is youâ€™re reason for stepping out Â in front of an audience.Â Name it and then stay out of your own way andÂ deliver it with passion to the audience.
Â What stands in your way?Â What stops you from becoming a passionate, dynamic speaker?
Fear of what?Â There are many I have heard throughout the years.Â Here are a few.
Â â€œIâ€™ll make a fool of myself!â€Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œWhat if I lose my place?â€
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œI really donâ€™t know that much.â€
Â â€œIâ€™m boring.â€
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â â€œWhat if I freeze up?â€Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
What is your specific fear?Â Become friends with your â€œdoubterâ€.Â Know it on an intimate basis.Â And address it.Â
Involvement is the enemy of tension.Â
Be involved in what your gift can do to help your audience and the attention will be on that, not yourself.Â Make it your mission that they get it, and keep trying to find the right way to give it.Â
Â But how can you be involved if you are watching, judging, directing, and scaring yourself?Â — You canâ€™t.
You need to re-direct your focus and put your attention on being present and one the audience.
Â You need to be involved with your audienceâ€™s reactions and ifÂ you focus totally on them, you canâ€™t be watching yourself and judging, directing, expecting, and anticipating.
You need to prepare before you go on stage. And one way is to breathe.
Deep Breathing.Â Have you heard it so much youâ€™re sick of it?Â I know I am.Â And yet, over and over again it comes up.Â Deep inhalation and exhalation â€“ extremely important to relaxation, centering, feeding of the brain.Â Eight slow breaths in, hold on four and out on seven breaths.Â Do that three times.
Confronting the Fear
Â And another vital area of involvement is to take some time to sit down and imagine yourself in front of a large crowd giving a speech or better yet, remember the last bad experience speaking.Â Now ask yourself what were the thoughts you had at that time?Â Any of the ones mentioned above?Â
Write them down and deal with them one at a time. Be specific. Â And then ask yourself â€œIs this true?â€Â â€œAm I boring?â€Â â€œDo I not know enough about my subject?â€Â The answer is NO.Â You must pay close attention to these â€œdoubtersâ€ and stop them dead with a big resounding NO.Â
You see most of the time you donâ€™t address them and they just build, getting stronger and stronger every time. You validate them every time you do not address them, letting them affect your self-worth.Â So, first say NO.Â Then tell the truth.Â What is the truth?Â Ask yourself.Â Â
â€œIâ€™ll make a fool of myself!â€Â You will.Â Plan on it.Â Be prepared to acknowledge it when it happens.Â Say it out loud to the audience.Â â€œWell, I sure screwed up.â€Â Laught at yourself. Theyâ€™ll love you for it.Â Theyâ€™ll appreciate your humanity.Â Theyâ€™ll feel you are just like them.Â They will trust you.Â Some professional speakers purposely screw up just so they can get the confidence of the audience.Â Â And just think if you get that one fear out of the way, you can focus on your gift.Â
â€œWhat if I lose my place?â€Â I was speaking to the Portland Female Executives at a lovely Hotel in downtown Portland.Â Iâ€™d sent out questionnaires ahead of time asking what they were most afraid of.Â Many said they were afraid of forgetting their place in their speech.Â So halfway through my presentation, I stopped, and said â€œWell, Iâ€™ve forgotten whatâ€™s next.â€ Â I then walked over to the podium about 5 feet away, rifled through my notes, and finally came up with the next thing to say.Â At this point I looked closely at everyone and said â€œDo you think less of me because I forgot my place?â€ â€œDo you think my information is less valuable then it was before I forgot my place?â€Â Everyone shook their head saying â€œoh no, no.â€Â â€œThen why do you think you will be judged if you lose your place in a speech?â€ I said.Â You can actually have your notes in front of you or in your hand but I strongly encourage your to not read from your notes.Â Â Just have them near by.Â
Â â€œI really donâ€™t know that much.â€Â I have heard this one more often than any other.Â What most people donâ€™t realize is that they are an expert in their field.Â Theyâ€™ve spent years learning through experience, classes, books and conversation, their particular gift.Â I remember when I first started Public Speaking Coaching.Â I told one of my Acting Students, â€œPeople already know all this.â€Â She looked at me amazed.Â â€œYouâ€™re crazy,â€ she said.Â â€œYou know this stuff because youâ€™ve lived with it day in and day out for years.Â Itâ€™s second nature to you.Â But the general public doesnâ€™t have a clue.â€Â I found out she was right with the first workshop I did.Â I had such a tremendous response for the gift Iâ€™d given, that I never questioned whether I didnâ€™t know my subject.Â Write it down, right now.Â I AM AN EXPERT IN MY FIELD and put it somewhere where you can see it daily.
â€œIâ€™m boring.â€Â I coached a College professor who said that exact same thing.Â I asked, â€œWhat makes you think that?â€Â He said â€œWhen I was in Grade 6 and gave a speech, three boys told me I was boring.â€Â â€œAnd you have held on to that and let it grow all these years letting it stand in the way, havenâ€™t you?â€ I said.Â â€œYes,â€ he replied.Â We worked on making friends with that â€œdoubterâ€ and never it letting pass by with stating NO.Â He replaced it with â€œIâ€™m amazing.â€Â I asked him what sort of experiences he had had lately with his speaking and his book.Â He said, â€œEveryone tells me itâ€™s interesting and stimulating.â€Â And then he wanted to tell me about a recent experience he had in Los Angeles.Â â€œI was at a famous restaurant frequented by many movie stars.Â The owner came out and told me that she was a fan of mine and would I autograph my book.â€Â
â€œWhat if I freeze up?â€Â I must admit that was my biggest fear on stage and it actually happened more than once and I just made something up. But I remember the feeling.Â I wished the floor would open up and swallow me and I would never be heard from again.Â I remember apologizing to my director at the American Academy of Dramatics after the show, â€œIâ€™m sorry I went up on the lines.â€Â To which he replied, â€œYou did?Â I didnâ€™t notice.â€Â Thatâ€™s right people notice a lot less than you think.Â My suggestion is to memorize something that gets you back into it. A mantra.Â Â Usually it is the central theme of your speech in one short sentence â€“ â€œauthenticity, acting skillsâ€.Â If I say that phrase, a slew of information floods my brain and Iâ€™m off.Â Whatâ€™s you mantra?
We hold on to what doesnâ€™t work instead of what does.Â What works about you?Â What do people say is great about you?Â Ask them.Â Write these statements down.Â Use them whenever the â€œdoubterâ€ shows up and soon the truth will be stronger than your negative thoughts.Â And instead youâ€™ll be focusing on your gift and how it can change peopleâ€™s lives because ITâ€™S NOT ABOUT YOU.
With all that said there is still no substitute for preparation and practice, practice, practice.