Fear can be debilitating. Facing our fears is not fun, at least at first.
The quality of your life will radically change depending on whether you’re willing to face your fears, and move through them — or not.
Let’s talk about one of the most common fears out there – the fear of public speaking.
Tina was a rising star in the company, so when she was asked to deliver an update at an important company meeting, her colleagues expected her to shine. Instead, she struggled in the spotlight. In fact, people from all over the office were whispering about Tina’s panic attack on stage.
“I felt so bad for her.”
“Her voice was cracking and we could barely understand her.”
In fact, Tina later told me that her physical reaction was so intense that it was all she could do to stand there and gulp for air. We agreed to work together to tackle her stage fright.
What is Stage Fright?
Stage fright is really just an overdose of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a natural hormone that courses throughout the body when you undergo some type of traumatic experience. That adrenaline rush is an intense feeling, and it has to be managed if you are going to be an effective speaker.
DANGER! DANGER! – RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!
Of course, you know your life isn’t in danger when you speak in front of an audience, but it can feel that way. Tina and I came up with some strategies that really helped calm her mind and focus her energy prior to an important event. After our work together, she went on to deliver a great presentation to the same audience just one month later.
If you get nervous, here are 5 things you can do that REALLY help:
1) Use up excess energy before you get on stage – Backstage before a performance you will see actors doing jumping jacks, tensing their muscles and then letting go. Too much energy is no good, because our heart starts pounding in our hands start shaking! You’ve got to get rid of some of it by using your muscles.
2) Breathe deeply – You can slow down your heart rate with your breathing. Take a deep breath, hold it in for 5 seconds, and then let it out just as slowly. Do this several times to calm yourself down. It works! Breathing also supports your voice to help you sound confident.
3) Practice on stage or in front of the room – Don’t pretend to practice. Really practice full out. Take in the space, visualize the audience there, get yourself mentally in the game. Close your eyes and imagine receiving a standing ovation. Really take in that feeling. Deliver your presentation to a trusted friend. Saying the words out loud really helps.
4) Memorize your opening – Know it like you know your own name. But don’t memorize the entire speech or you’ll worry about forgetting your lines. Once you get started, your nerves will calm down and you’ll start to get into the flow.
5) Give yourself permission to be imperfect – It’s all about connecting with the audience, after all. It’s not about being perfect. If you are too perfect they won’t relate to you. I say it all the time – your presentation is a present.
Focus on the gift you are giving the audience and you won’t feel as nervous.
Of course, the more you speak, the less nervous you will be. That means saying YES to speaking engagements, big and small.
You can do this!